A rough ride comes good for Oman Racing with TF Sport at Blancpain GT season opener
It was a far from smooth ride, but one in which Oman Racing with TF Sport secured a fighting fifth place finish as the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup got underway this weekend at Monza, Italy (20-22 April) at an event where challenges were thrown at the team almost from the outset.
With plenty of pre-season testing complete for the team and the new driver line-up of Ahmad Al Harthy, Euan McKay and Charlie Eastwood, the target for the opening round was the podium position – a realistic target given the unique nature of the circuit. All of that planning and preparation however came to zero as testing on Friday, ahead of official practice, saw the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 sustain significant chassis damage as a result of the aggressive kerbing at Monza.
With parts being brought in overnight from Prodrive in the UK, the team were forced to miss the first official practice session on Saturday with the aim of shakedown of the car in pre-qualifying. In race against time the team worked flawlessly to turn around the car, well ahead of schedule. With a record-breaking two-hour engine fitting, the team were back on track, albeit down on track time.
The team were disappointed to line up seventh on the grid in the Silver Cup class with Ahmad taking the first stint in the three-hour race. With over 50 cars in the field, the first lap was always going to be a lottery and with stricken cars blocking the exit at turn one, he dropped two positions before putting in a great performance to more than reclaim the lost ground.
Euan took over for the second stint from sixth, but a drive through penalty was handed to the team for an earlier incident where the team where adjudged to have failed to drop to the full course yellow 80 KPH within the time requirement. This 20-second plus time loss dropped the #97 Aston back down the order, but Euan was able to retake one position before handing over to Charlie for the final hour of running.
Eastwood was soon on the pace in fifth position, closing on the car ahead, but with the race leaders coming through, his challenge for further gains was compromised and the team had to settle for fifth position on what was a trying and equally impressive weekend from all at TF Sport.