Fourth is no consolation for Oman Racing after outstanding race weekend

Monday, April 25, 2016

Having decided to return to only the SRO's Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup over and above a joint full season entry again with the series sister British GT championship in 2016, Oman Racing arrived at Monza for the series opener last weekend with the potential to surprise.

Still driving a Motorbase prepared Aston Martin Racing V12 Vantage GT3 (presumably now elevated to 2016 specification) the new for 2016 driver line up of Ahmad Al Harthy, Jonny Adam and Devon Modell would also be competing within the Pro-Am Cup, a drop down from the Pro Cup category of the previous two years.

The #44 car would unfortunately also be the sole AMR full season entry for the marque in 2016.

Qualifying P13 overall out of a colossal grid of 57 cars the #44 Oman Racing car would be started by Al Harthy for the opening stint of around an hour, followed by Modell and then Adam to the flag. With the customary rolling start the extent of the grid was such as some cars were not even on the start straight by the time the lights turned to green but as the majority thundered down to the tight Variante Del Rettifilo the prospect of race ending damage was still ever present.

Fortunately, Al Harthy and indeed most of the other cars managed to jockey themselves relatively unscathed around the right then left hander to start the three hour race in earnest. Al Harthy very quickly settled down to his own driving pattern and race strategy and within only 20minutes had climbed the leader board to P9 overall (P3 in class) but genuinely holding track position through pace and line over Pro drivers in much newer machinery. A superb drive.

At the top of the first hour he handed the car over to Modell from a very impressive fifth on track and leading the Pro-Am class as the then leading Black Pearl Racing Ferrari having already pitted. Despite the young Brit having competed in Blancpain last year in a BMW Z4 this would be his first racing experience of the AMR Vantage and only his second completive race of 2016 (Dubai 24H in a GT4 Vantage) so would ave been out to impress!

And that he would, battling with the ebb and flow of the race together with numerous yellow flag incidents Modell would complete his hour stint fourteenth overall but more importantly holding P3 in class - the chase to the flag would be then down to AMR factory driver Jonny Adam.

With only about half the remaining field being in a competitive position on track (remainder being multiple laps down relatively speaking) Adam just had to chase down the #66 Ferrari for position in class but he lost a number of laps (and time) by being held up by two ever so slightly fastest Audi R8's squabbling over P12/13 in Pro class. The similarities in performance between the two chassis meant that only a banzai (possibly race ending) manoeuvre would have allowed him to pass these two cars sooner than he did.

Entering the final eighteen minutes of the race 'things were looking good' for a podium finish for the #44 car - well it was before pseudo Ferrari factory driver Giancarlo Fisichella came along out of nowhere in his brand new #53 488 GT3 quickly taking Adam for position. Despite all valiant efforts the #44 car was unable to make up the time difference between it and the #66 Black Pearl Racing Ferrari just ahead of it and would finish thirteenth overall and P4 in class - the #53 car was fast enough to catch and pass the #66 car in the final quarter to claim second in Pro-Am!!

The series opener was a great display for the series - gone were many of the idiotic manoeuvres that previously eliminated cars at almost every corner. Al Harthy clearly drove the race of his life yesterday and it was a shame that his efforts could not have been reward with a podium.

The series now moves onto to Silverstone at the beginning of May where the power characteristics of the V12 Vantage may again prove competitive against it newer iteration adversaries.

Photo credits - Blancpain / Oman Racing

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