TF Sport: Gulf 12Hr report

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Oman Racing Team with TF Sport brought to a close its 2017 campaign in style on Saturday evening in Abu Dhabi, securing the Gulf 12 Hours runner-up position in the GT PA class. The result caps of a sensational year that saw them claim title honours in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, victories in British GT and a title challenge at the first attempt in the European Le Mans Series.

Ahmad Al Harthy, Tom Jackson and Euan McKay teamed up at the wheel of the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 for what is one of the toughest races of the season. While second position in class was a good result, it was bitter-sweet given that the overall race victory was a possibility.

Al Harthy took the honours of starting the first six-hour segment of the race from fourth position, initially dropping one place but maintaining the advantage over the #20 SPS Automotive entry to lead the GT PA class.

The first portion of the race was largely trouble free with Al Harthy running in a United Autosport sandwich. McKay took over with 70-minutes complete and was immediately right on the pace in what is his race debut with TF Sport. As the stops shook out, McKay found himself closing quickly on the race-leading #11 Kessel car and soon afterwards took the lead and then extended his advantage at the head of the field.

Jackson was next in the car and having dropped to second overall, showed his aggressive streak following the first safety car period as he pushed hard to regain the number one position. The remainder of the first part of the race played out with Al Harthy completing a second stint before Jackson was back in the car only for a lengthy safety car to bring phase one to a close.

The race effectively reset for the second six-hour run with Al Harthy running fifth early on before handing to McKay. The Scottish racer made rapid progress to and with a timely safety car period was able to then launch a push for the lead.

Once at the head of the field, McKay extended his lead to over 30 seconds, but the culmination of multiple curb strikes over the race resulted in damage to the gearbox cooler. With almost nine minutes lost making repairs, the team were back out with a quarter distance remaining in third position in class, tenth overall.

The recovery continued and culminated in eighth position overall, second in GT PA and more Silverware to wrap up the season.

Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director

“We would have taken this result ahead of the race, but having seen how competitive we were, it’s a hard one to take. Whilst I’m happy enough with P2 in PA, an overall race win was on and that was our objective. But that’s racing and again the team did a fantastic job – as did all three drivers and I hope we can work with them again. Now we have a small break and get ready for the new year.”

Tom Jackson

“That was an amazing experience for me at what is another new track for me, lots of seat time in the Aston Martin and the only downside is that we didn’t get the overall win which could have been a possibility. Still, we got the PA podium and I got to travel home with a trophy in my suitcase, so there are many positives.

“It was a little frustrating to get so much safety car running – especially at the end of the first six hours where my whole stint was driving at like 20kph. But when racing I learned a great deal about traffic management – how to pass and where to try and pass – whilst also allowing quicker cars through on fresh tyres on occasion and just lifting off a fraction to let them through and then follow close behind. A real learning experience and credit to TF Sport again who worked like clockwork and got the very best from every opportunity.

“I’ll certainly aim to be back with them in 2018 – such a class team and they’re so mega determined - their support was first class.”

Euan McKay

“The team did a great job with the car, it was good to start with and they just made it better and better throughout the week. I had good runs, particularly after the safety car period (in race two) as the lap times dropped and dropped; so different from the first part of the race. It was great to lead of course, but I felt my final stint was the most impressive really, up against a factory driver in (Andrea) Piccini. I was matching or bettering him by fractions of a second, so to close the gap by the chequered flag was very rewarding.

“The three of us believed we could win the class and perhaps we could have won the race. I felt responsible at the time, but after talking with the team it became clear it wasn’t a singular incident that caused the failure. It was still a massive shame though and then I wanted to get the class win so much for everyone. The team were great but in the end we had to be content with the podium position”

Ahmad Al Harthy

"It’s great to end the year with another podium, second in class in the Gulf 12 Hours is fantastic and a very positive way for us to end 2018. We showed strong speed all weekend, Tom and Euan did a great job and the team, as ever, gave us an incredible car. To have led the race overall, and been on course to win the class, shows what a great team effort it was.

"To end the season like this, on the podium at such a big race so close to Oman, is amazing and everyone who came to support us had a great time. We’re all incredibly happy and this is another positive for Oman Racing, our seventh podium of the year in total, to build on as we look to 2018."

Source material - TF Sport
Photo credits - Gulf 12Hr /Andrew Lofthouse / TF Sport
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