The final round of the Blancpain GT Series saw Oman Racing with TF Sport record a fifth-place finish on Sunday (30 September) to bring to a close the 2018 Endurance Cup Silver Cup campaign with Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay.
The team had hoped to cap off the season with a podium position, but the timing of late race safety car periods means that the team had to be satisfied with another strong showing albeit with a fifth-place finish after three hours of intense racing.
Saturday practice saw the team run through the setup programme, predominantly focusing on longer runs with used tyres while qualifying on Sunday saw the trio qualify in sixth position in the class.
Ahmad took the opening stint of the race, steering clear of the usual opening lap contact to maintain his position and keeping pressure on the #12 Lambo of Andrea Rizzoli ahead. As the race settled, Ahmad found himself having to defend from the #24 car from behind before pitting just before the one-hour mark and a handing over to Euan.
The second stint saw Euan drop behind the #28, now driven by Toby Sowery, but by mid-distance was back up to sixth position. Charlie took over for the run to the chequered flag following another safety car period and made the pass on the #28 and set about closing the gap to the #12 of Alex Frassineti ahead in fourth.
As string of safety cars in the final 30 minutes of racing however put paid to any hopes of making further gains and Charlie duly brought the #97 Aston Martin GT3 home in fifth position.
“It was a good result, a little high for the end of the season. We didn’t get the best start to the weekend but my stint didn’t go too badly. It’s been a tough season in Blancpain but for me it was more about learning all about endurance racing to then put that additional experience to my WEC programme. So, I have learned a great deal and will use that knowledge gained though the rest of the season.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“The result really sums up our year in this category really. Perhaps we didn’t quite get it right in qualifying and that put us on the back foot. We showed much better pace in the race but then we got a bit unlucky with safety cars towards the end, so another fifth place. That’s two fifth, two fourths. It’s a shame we couldn’t end the season with a podium.”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“Everyone drove perfectly and we kept away from incidents but the safety cars didn’t work in our favour. It’s a real shame as more was possible, but it’s still a good way to finish the season. Big thank you to our incredible sponsors, the fans back home in Oman, all the guys in the team and, of course, my team-mates Euan and Charlie.”
Oman Racing with TF Sport are set for one last push as the Blancpain GT Series heads to Barcelona, Spain for the fifth and final round of the Endurance Cup this weekend (28-30 September).
Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay are aiming to end the season on a high note having shown great potential but ultimately having yet to reach the top step of the podium in 2018.
The season started with a fifth positions at both Monza and Silverstone, followed by a fourth place at Paul Ricard in the summer. The 24 Hours of Spa unfortunately saw the team forced to retire the #97 Aston Martin Vantage due to accident damage, but the team are confident that they’ll enjoy a change of fortune in Spain.
“I’m really looking forward to Barcelona. We haven’t had the results or luck we deserve this year so really hoping for a strong finish to close out the season. The recent test went well for us so we have high hopes heading into the race.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“It has been a challenging season for all of us in Blancpain this year. We have shown competitive speed in qualifying but have been unable to convert that into better race results. We won the Pro-Am championship in 2017 but unfortunately, we’re out of the running for the Silver Cup this year. We can only go out and try and end the year on a positive note, something I know we’re very capable of doing.”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“I’m looking forward to Barcelona and ending the season with a strong result and a good race. That’s what we all want. We tested there recently and hopefully we can build on that and get a good result to end the season.”
“This year has absolutely flown by, but we haven’t had the results we wanted so we’re looking to go out on a high. Again, it’s a new circuit for me, but the test went well so I’m looking forward to the weekend and hopefully we can finish the season with some silverware.”