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Sport and Fitness

How I prepare for race day: Oman driver Ahmed Al Harthy

Words by Rob Chilton

After enjoying increased success on the track, Ahmed Al Harthy had to make changes to his fitness and diet.

Muscat-born Ahmed Al Harthy drives an Aston Martin Vantage in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.

Last September, the 38-year-old won the 2019 championship, his second in three years, having also won in 2017. The season concluded in Barcelona where Al Harthy and his teammates Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc also helped Oman Racing take home the team title.

“It’s been a very special year for everyone in Oman,” smiled Al Harthy. “It’s always such an honour to represent Oman and to fly the flag so proudly once again.”

He spoke to EDGAR in Muscat at the launch of Aston Martin’s first SUV, the DBX where he explained how he prepares his mind and body for the rigours of endurance motorsport.

Oman racing driver Ahmed Al Harthy.

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Al Harthy races in Barcelona in September

What has been your experience of being an Omani in the motorsport world?

Being an Arab driver there are obviously a lot more obstacles. There are barriers to do with educating journalists, the public, the sponsors. Motorsports and circuit racing in particular is something new in the region, it only kicked off in 2004 after the first Bahrain Grand Prix.

How has your race preparation changed in the last few years?

I started my career pretty late compared to European racing drivers. When I first started racing in 2006 the only thing I was thinking about was driving a race car, I never really understood what went on behind the scenes. The learning curve was massive.

Oman racing driver Ahmed Al Harthy.

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Al Harthy checks his numbers

What sort of things did you learn?

I competed in Formula Renault in 2007 and mimicked the other drivers. Social media started to become popular so I was able to pick up on things like training and diet and the idea that we should be athletes. Over the years we’ve tried to be fitter, stronger and healthier in terms of what we eat and how we train. We have to be on top of these things because, ultimately, if we are strong physically we perform better and reduce our lap times.

Was there a vital lesson you learned that helped your performance?

There was no one key thing, it was a cohesion of so many things. Every year I’m performing better and improving, I’m staying positive and motivated. I’ve become fitter and stronger, which you’ll see if you look at pictures of me in the past!

Oman racing driver Ahmed Al Harthy.

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Enjoying his 2019 title win

Do you watch your diet closely?

I’m not that strict with food, but when race season comes closer I motivate myself. I never stop myself from having something, but perhaps I’ll eat smaller quantities. In GT endurance racing I don’t keep such a close eye on my weight. I have a target weight that I try to hover around, I’m 67kg, which is fine for GT racing.

What do you eat and drink on the morning of a race?

Fluids are more important than anything so I stay hydrated with electrolyte drinks. Everyone sweats differently so we do sweat tests and then have my drinks tailored to what I need. Ninety minutes before a race I’ll eat something like to give me energy.

Oman racing driver Ahmed Al Harthy.

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Signing autographs for fans

What’s your fitness routine?

Typically I go to the gym five times a week and do a combination of cardio, circuits and CrossFit. I’m running the Muscat marathon in January. Well, actually, I’m just running the 10k – I’m not really a runner.

What muscles do you focus on?

Biceps, neck and triceps are important but abs are the most important area for a race driver. Having a strong core is key.

Oman racing driver Ahmed Al Harthy.

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Al Harthy uses visualisation techniques

Do you use visualisation techniques?

Yeah, it’s very important and helps me a lot. I sit in bed or on the plane and do a lap run at Silverstone in my head, visualising corners lap after lap and clocking my time. Or I’ll mimic seven race starts, from all positions on the grid: inside, outside, front and back. It gets me one step closer to getting in the real car. But nothing is better than actual racecraft – the more races you do, the better you get.

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