Al Harthy strikes pole for ORT with TF Sport in thrilling Spa WEC Qualifier

Friday, April 28, 2023


The difference a day makes within the World Endurance Championship is sometimes incredible as today we saw some real pace being delivered by the three Aston Martin Racing powered teams that appeared to bring them all right back into contention ahead of tomorrow’s six-hour race at Spa Francorchamps.

Waking up to the predicted wet track conditions around the circuit, the productivity to be achieved by the ORT with TF Sport, D’Station Racing and Heart of Racing teams was debatable, but seat time remained precious as each crew were still running at least one driver new to the Championship this season.

The #777 D’Station Racing MAR Vantage GTE of Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii and (in this session especially) the young Casper Stevenson elevated car up to P2 in class by the end of that final hour of practice earlier today but whilst the #25 ORT AMR of Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood finished out mid table with the #98 Northwest Heart of Racing crew of Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli still finding their feet in tenth out of the thirteen runners.

Today’s pit walk was absolutely packed with crowds three, four, five deep outside the garages, jockeying for any vantage point for a photograph and signed hero card from their preferred team.

The day was rounded off with the Qualifying session for each of the three classes starting again with the GTE Am class with still only thirteen of the listed fourteen cars running thanks to the earlier incident involving the two Ferrari’s taking out the #21 AF Corse until tomorrow when a new chassis can be built up for them.

Now under clearing skies and warming sunshine, all the cars were again driven by their designated bronze driver meaning that Hoshino, Al Harthy and James completing the honours again.

A stunningly quick opening lap for Al Harthy placed him at the head of the timing board just as the #56 Project 1 Porsche hit the tyre wall at the top of Raidillon, bringing out an immediate red flag. Thankfully otherwise uninjured, the session soon got back under way leaving time for only two more flying laps.

Both times the Omani improved providing the purists with a trio of lap times all capable to taking the pole position, which he did to great applause with the team garage as the first Omani driver to do so within the WEC. The next battle would be for who would be starting tomorrow alongside and that eventually went to the #85 Iron Dames Porsche, making for an interesting opening lap tomorrow.

A great performance was also posted by James in his first WEC Qualifier since that phone call beckoning them to join the Championship just a week ago. He finished in sixth whilst Hoshino also improved upon recent performances to start from P10. Like always, Free Practice and Qualifying is one thing – a six-hour race something completely different.

Good luck to them all.
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