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Accident ends Oman Racing Team's Spa challenge

July 29th 2014

The Oman Racing Team's Spa challenge was halted by an unavoidable accident

A substantial accident, caused by an error from another driver, ended the Total 24 Hours of Spa (26/27 July) for the Oman Racing Team at just before mid-distance when a top ten overall finish was becoming a real possibility.

The Motorbase Performance team's Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, driven by Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Caine and Stephen Jelley faced a fantastic entry of 60 GT cars and it was Al Harthy at the wheel when the team's race came to a sudden finish against the barrier during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Round four of the Blancpain Endurance Series was the biggest challenge of the season for David Bartrum's squad with the Oman Racing Team's maiden contest in the notoriously competitive 24-hour race at the sensational Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.

The Oman Racing Team squad headed by front row L-R: Michael Caine, Ahmad Al Harthy, Stephen Jelley and Team Principal David BartrumJelley was charged with going for the qualifying lap during on Friday and posted a time within a second of the top 10 times. However, this session proved generally slower and so the #44 Oman car started Saturday's round the clock challenge from 37th position overall on the grid.

Unfortunately the start of the race didn't go quite to plan for the squad with a small issue on the car forcing a return to the pits during the opening laps. Meanwhile, the early stages of the race descended into chaos as several big accidents occurred, with the race red-flagged at one stage while the accidents were dealt with.

Once the race re-started, the Oman team slotted into the rhythm of the 24-hour race and all three drivers delivered strong stints as the race headed into Saturday night. Despite the early delay, which cost around three minutes, the squad made excellent progress with the Vantage working its way up into 17th place and chasing a top 10 overall position.

Then at around 4am disaster struck. Ahmad was in the car and closing on a McLaren when the other driver lost control and spun at the high-speed Blanchimont corner. Ahmad had to take instant avoiding action to avoid a catastrophic impact and speared off into the tyre wall, recording a 121mph impact. The car was heavily damaged, but withstood the impact very well. Fortunately, Ahmad was given the all-clear by medical staff after checks in hospital.

#44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin V12 Vantage takes to the stunning Spa Franorchamps circuit

It was a disappointing end to a week of intense build up and preparation in Spa for the entire Motorbase team, which now has four weeks to complete an extensive rebuild ahead of the next round of the British GT Championship at its home circuit, Brands Hatch at the end of the month.

The fifth and final round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series will be held on the Grand Prix circuit at the Nurburgring in Germany over the weekend 20/21 September.

Oman Racing Team Principal David Bartrum said:
"The team thoroughly enjoyed its first experience of the Spa 24 hours; the boys did a great job with the car and a top 10 finish didn't look too far away. We've got unfinished business with Spa and we're already looking forward to going back next year and doing it all again, hopefully with a bit better luck.

"It's really disappointing for the team that the race ended as it did, up until that point the team and drivers had done a sterling job. But as we all know, that's racing."

The #44 Aston ran well through the night until Sunday's early hours accident ended the raceOman Racing Team driver Ahmad Al Harthy said:
"We were running our race until the accident, there was a small issue at the start but that was fixed in three minutes. After that we were playing catch-up but Michael and Stephen did a great job and I was happy with my pace. I really think we could have had a top 10 finish with how well we were coming through the order. These things happen though.

"There was nothing I could do, you just have to be pleased everything is okay and although there's a lot of work to be done on the car, Motorbase is the team you want in your corner. They'll get everything sorted out for our next race. I would like to say a big thank you to the marshals and circuit staff for helping me and being so professional."