Hit by problems during qualifying and the race, the opening round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series turned out to be a frustrating experience for Ahmad al Harthy and Oman Racing Team (ORT) in Monza, Italy on Sunday.

Initially, the pace of the No 44 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 was the highlight in the opening qualifying session with Ahmad’s teammate Daniel Lloyd posting the sixth fastest Pro Cup time and ninth overall.

During the subsequent run, though, the team was badly affected by a red-flag stoppage. It meant the ORT car would start the three-hour race from 20th position on the combined grid.

A major test awaited the squad, but the opening stint went well for Lloyd. Slicing his way through the order, the British racer gained several positions before handing the car over to Ahmad for his stint, but at the pit-stop, there was a costly delay caused by a mechanical problem.

Losing valuable time, Ahmad rejoined the race outside the overall top 30 and had a mountain to climb to try and minimise the damage. The Omani then noticed an issue with the handling – thought to be a possible puncture – and so his pace was limited until the next stop when he handed the car over to Jonny Adam for the final hour.

Aston Martin works driver Adam joined the track in 34th position overall, but managed to haul the No 44 machine into 28th place before the finish – 17th in the Pro Cup.

“We started off in the wrong place at the wrong time in qualifying. Unfortunately, the red flags caught us out, so we were on the back-foot from the beginning,” said Ahmad. “We had very good pace with Dan [Lloyd] in the first stint, we were climbing well, but then we lost important time at my stop.

“I rejoined the race a long way down from where we should have been, but then we had a bit of a problem with our pick-up. It felt like a slow puncture or something like that, so we had to be cautious. When Jonny [Adam] took over for the last stint, he did his best to gain some places.”

The next stop on the Blancpain Series schedule is a visit to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK on May 23-24. Before that, Ahmad will return to action in the 2015 British GT Championship at Rockingham, UK on May 2-3.

“Blancpain is the strongest and biggest GT championship in the world, so as soon as you have a couple of problems, it really does have a big impact,” Ahmad said. “We’re positive, though, as we learned so much and we are looking forward to the next round.”

SOURCE: Muscat Daily