SHARED PODIUM SPOILS AT SPA FOR TF SPORT DUO
International GT Open debutants Al Harthy and Canning claimed Pro Am victory and third overall, in the opening round at Spa Francorchamps last weekend, and teammates Yoluc and Eastwood continued their unbroken podium streak with a second place finish in the latter race.
TF Sport headed to Belgium for the penultimate round of the 2020 International GT Open, where both of their two-car entries took a trip to the podium. Oman Racing with TF Sport made their first competitive appearance of the season, with the current 24 Hours of Spa victor Ahmad Al Harthy, who was joined by GT4 champion and GT3 debutant, Tom Canning. Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood continued their fight for the championship honours.
Both cars took turns in being second quickest in Friday’s free practice runs. Eastwood set the tone of his weekend with a P2 in the first session and despite being out of a car for over a year, Al Harthy impressed in FP3 by setting a time close to championship leader Ramos.
With only a handful of laps under his belt, youngster Canning took the wheel of #97 in the first qualifying session. Tom reiterated his natural talent by placing the Pro Am entry on the front row for the opening race of the weekend, missing out on pole position by just 0.1s! A frustrating qualifying session was had by Yoluc in the #34 Vantage, as most of the Turk’s flying laps were marred by GT4 traffic, leaving him in P7.
Canning’s first GT3 race start didn’t quite go to plan as he was swamped by his competitors going into turn one and slipped down to fifth. Tom made good ground whilst holding off the pack behind, before bringing #97 in to hand over to Al Harthy. A similar story was had for Yoluc, however he managed to hold station in P7 before his stop.
The #34 served its 10-second success penalty that it carried over from the podium finish at Monza and Charlie wasted no time in ensuring the TF Sport Vantage was the fastest car on track. Eastwood worked his way up the order and crossed the line in fifth place.
Al Harthy took charge of the Oman Racing with TF Sport Vantage and left the pits in fourth, with a podium finish in mind. The Omani superstar closed up to the leading trio and just two laps before the end, Al Harthy claimed not only the Pro Am lead, but third place overall, which is where he remained until the flag.
Eastwood and Al Harthy qualified their respective cars for the second race of the weekend. Charlie’s nail-biting qualifying session saw the #34 place on the front row, an incredible 0.03s short of the GT3 lap record around the Ardennes. Ahmad continued his superb pace by being the fastest Bronze driver in his session by 0.4s, placing the #97 in fifth in class for the race start.
Charlie spent the majority of his stint as the fastest man on track, battling with #34’s two closest championship rivals. Whereas Ahmad found himself stuck behind the Optimum Motorsport’s Iribe and the straight-line speed of the McLaren greatly hindered Al Harthy’s opportunities to pass.
With the time lost in Ahmad’s stint and the time penalty served for race one’s success, Canning made the best of his race and brought the #97 Vantage home sixth in class. Following the mandatory stop, Yoluc headed out on track, just 0.5s behind Ramos, however, GT4 traffic increased the gap and denied Salih the chance to make a move for the lead. #34 took the flag in second, claiming the duo’s sixth podium finish of the season and held their third position in the championship standings.
The final round of the International GT Open takes place at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, on 31 October-1 November, where Yoluc and Eastwood will battle hard to claim the title.
Tom Ferrier, Team Owner - “It was great to have Ahmad back on track and to see Tom finally make his GT3 debut. Taking the Pro Am victory was something we knew they were both capable of, but stepping on the overall podium as well made it even more sweet. The purpose of the weekend was for them both to gain experience racing with each other, ahead of the Asian Le Mans Series, and its certainly proved they are a great pairing. We achieved what we set out to do with Salih and Charlie, which was to take as many points as possible to stay within championship contention. The fact that we have finished in a podium position at every round this year is not only testament to the drivers, but to our superb crew too.”