Francorchamps: Ahmad Al Harthy declared himself happy with the pace of his Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 and ultimately satisfied with the preparations of his Oman Racing Team (ORT) during qualifying for the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa at the famous Belgian circuit on Thursday.
Despite missing out on the coveted top 20 in qualifying by 0.9 seconds after the two evening sessions, and therefore losing out on the chance to progress into the 'Super Pole' session which determines the first 10 rows of the grid, the Omani and teammates Michael Caine and Stephen Jelley remain very positive and confident for the big race which begins today.
Unsurprisingly with a 60 car entry, traffic proved to be the biggest issue in the opening run with space at a real premium. While Caine and Ahmad took the first two runs, the responsibility for the out-and-out qualifying lap lay with Jelley but his run was baulked.
Ultimately ending the first 75-minute session with a best time of two minutes and 21.313 seconds, for the subsequent night qualifying period the Oman Racing Team was able to deliver a more competitive showing but the track was slower and so Jelley's best lap was 2:23.652. Underlining the improvements in the second session, the team was little more than a second shy of the top 10.
Therefore, the Oman Air, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Al Hashar Group/Aston Martin Oman-liveried No. 44 Aston Martin will begin the fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance Series from the middle of the 60-car grid in 37th position overall, 16th in the Pro Cup class.
"The car felt good, everything was good with the handling and the pace," said Ahmad. "Michael went out first and put a banker lap in with a good time, then I had my run and made sure I did my three laps without any problems — I was happy with the car's performance and my pace.
Stephen was in charge for getting the qualifying time, but it all came down to how busy the track was.
"When everyone got their best times in, Stephen suffered from traffic and that's why we ended up where we did. I think we had the overall pace but we have to start in the middle of the pack. Night qualifying was better for us but the track was slower then."
As the biggest race of the year for the 32-year-old, Ahmad is, first and foremost, determined for the Oman Racing Team to make it the finish of the 24 Hour duration and despite the frustrations of the final qualifying position hopes remain high of a strong ascent through the order.
"You always want to start as far to the front as you can for any race, but it's not such an important part of the weekend for a race like the 24 Hour," he added.
"It's going to be exciting, we know we have true pace in the race and that's what it's about for us, having a strong car in the race.
"Everyone is going to enjoy it, we're all comfortable with the car which is important. Hopefully we can make up a lot of places and take away a good result in the race, we're all really looking forward to the start on Saturday afternoon."
The Total 24 Hours of Spa will get underway at 16.30 (local time) today.