Make that 5! Blancpain GT Endurance Cup drivers’ and teams’ championship wins for TF Sport
Having secured podiums in every round and dominated the 24 Hours of Spa to take the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup win last time out, it was a matter of keeping a clear head and securing a top five finish in Barcelona for Oman Racing with TF Sport on Sunday afternoon to take the Pro-Am championship for the second time in three seasons.
With Charlie Eastwood taking the chequered flag in second position and main rivals RAM Racing crashing out, TF Sport were able to claim both drivers’ and teams’ championships in the series to add to the three crowns secured earlier in the month in the SRO British GT Championship.
Salih Yoluc teamed up with Ahmad Al Harthy and Charlie for the three-hour finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3. With the 16-point advantage in the drivers’ championship and 14 in the teams’, a top-four was all that was required to clinch both titles. In a race of incident and accident, TF Sport and its drivers -played it safe, finished third and made it a day to remember in Spain.
There was plenty of time to practice at the Spanish venue as the TF Sport crew worked through all the various tyre and car programmes ahead of qualifying. This proved a little tricky with all three drivers setting the sixth fastest time.
Salih made a great start and ahead of the inevitable first lap safety car having worked his way up to third behind the #31 Bentley of Derek Pierce and class leader – and championship rival - Remon Vos in the #74 RAM.
With the yellows flying, Salih prepared for the restart having gained ten cars overall to run in 29th overall in the multi-class event. Running in third in class, the gap at the head of the championship was a significant six points to their advantage.
After a long Safety Car for barrier repairs on the back straight, the race got underway after nearly 50-minutes of the race complete, with Salih right behind the #31 Bentley (p28/3).
Salih didn’t enjoy much racing time behind the wheel as before the hour mark he handed over to Ahmad who resumed in fifth with the leading three cars head yet to pit.
With Vos pitting and handing over to Tom-Onslow Cole in the #74 RAM after 65-minutes, Ahmad ran in third position, crucially with a 13-point advantage in the championship. The front-runners all ran in tandem with Ahmad chasing the #93 of Tempesta Ferrari, whilst fending off the #31 Bentley from behind before a second Safety Car period closed up the field further.
Ahmad continued his stint, yielding to Seb Morris in the #31 Bentley, he was not a championship contender before the #26 Audi made the pass for position too. Pitting at the two-hour mark under Full Course Yellow, it was a case of job-done for the Oman racer as in P5, he had a one-point advantage from the race leading RAM entry.
The final stint came down to Charlie as the field bunched up with another Safety Car. Running fifth behind the #26 Audi, it all became academic as Vos went off in the closing stages, meaning that by default, TF Sport claimed the Pro-AM title with Salih, Ahmad and Charlie.
Not content with a certain championship, the racer in Charlie dispatched the Bentley to run third and by the chequered flag moved second ahead of the #93 Tempesta, it was a double championship result for TF Sport and the drivers.
With three title wins in the British GT Championship and another two in the SRO Blancpain GT Championship, TF Sport now prepare for the next big challenge which is Fuji Speedway for round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“It’s been a hard weekend but ultimately it’s an amazing result and one for the team after a great effort over the season as a whole. We had a game plan to stay out of trouble and get the result and it all went to plan. The result at the 24 Hours of Spa was a big part of the championship but today everything was flawless, and we did everything to take the championship; couldn’t be better. Couldn’t be happier, we’re going to Vegas!”
Ahmad Al Harthy
“It’s just not today, it’s about the season as a whole, everyone did an amazing job, so thank you to Salih, Charlie and I’m grateful for all the support from Oman, it means a lot for me and them!”
“I’m delighted with the result, but as ever, we didn’t win every round, so that’s a bit disappointing [laughs] – you do know it’s all Charlie’s fault we didn’t win every round, but seriously, this is a just a mega result!”
“It’s amazing to win the Blancpain Pro-Am championship. We worked so hard for it all season and yes, some results were good, some less so, but it’s a great result for TF Sport!”