Three out of three podiums for Oman Racing with TF Sport in Blancpain GT Series
TF Sport sealed their third podium of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup on Saturday to move within eleven points of the title lead.
Ahmad Al Harthy, Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood combined in qualifying to produce a 1:54:185 to secure their third pole position in a row.
Salih took the wheels of the Aston Martin for the first stint, opting to take the evenings early hours. With the grid nearing 50 entrants, the start was always going to be tricky and the Turkish driver slipped down to third place in class avoiding the carnage that consumed the opening lap.
After an early safety car that led the pack for ten minutes, Salih maintained his position seeking advancements before managing a full course yellow period for an incident with the #55 Audi, which resulted in another safety car.
This instigated the first round of pitstops and Salih came out in fifth in class with the two – new – class leaders yet to pit. By lap 27 he was promoted to second in class and P22 overall after those who hadn’t pitted under the previous full course yellow made their way in.
Ahmad jumped into the Vantage on lap 45 and slotted back into the race where Salih left it. With the sun coming down, visibility was difficult and another safety car was brought out on lap 54 with the #33 Ferrari running off track.
Struggling for grip Ahmad span off and clipped the tyre wall. Fortunately for the #97 he was able to continue and re-joined the track in the class lead after the AF Corse had entered the pits.
Two unexpected pit-stops for potential flat tyres dropped the team from the class lead back into third place. But despite the time lost, Ahmad put in a solid stint before handing over the GT3 to Charlie for the final two-hour job.
With the championship prospects looming, Charlie begun chasing down the Ram Racing in front. What had begun as a 49 second lead had been brought down to 17 seconds within 25 laps by the Irishman.
By the time the team made their final stop, they were behind the Mercedes on track albeit with a chunk of time between them. Although their pace suggested winning honours, the Oman Racing with TF Sport team came home in third place with the lead of the drivers’ championship.
TF Sport Director, Tom Ferrier
"We had great pace all weekend. Disappointing not to win again and we definitely had the pace to. But its great that we’re in the drivers’ championship lead and have closed the gap in the teams championship. We need to get it right in Spa and we can’t make mistakes in a 24-hour race, so its onwards and upwards, again and hopefully we can get that win soon."
Ahmad Al Harthy
"We’re really happy to have finished on the podium again. It was a very tough and challenging race and my stint was very difficult. But everyone drove extremely well and we got all the points needed to be at the top of the championship. I think that’s where we want to head into Spa in that direction. Really looking forward to the next round."
"The race was good and the start was quite hectic, but I avoided any drama that could have made things worse. We were quite unlucky with the safety cars and the full course yellows but we managed them quite well and put in a good recovery drive. We got the championship lead and we leave with a good result so we hope to maintain that into the next rounds and go searching for our first win!"
"We had really strong pace throughout, we had a little bit of damage from the second stint which made it a little bit more difficult but still tried to just look past it and do the best that I could. Unfortunately when you’re up against other pros, we just got caught out a bit by a safety car and it set us back by over a minute to second place so the chances of us catching another pro that far ahead is virtually impossible, but over the two hour period we caught the overall pros so we clearly had good pace if not stronger pace, the car was really strong. It’s frustrating that we got another pole and podium, but I am sure we’ll get one of these wins very soon as its very close."