Al Zubair wins both silver and GCC rookie category in season 2016/17
Omani star Al Faisal Al Zubair topped off an incredible weekend and an end to a perfect debut season with a fourth place finish overall. The young driver missed out narrowly on another podium position after a thrilling battle between himself and Qatar’s Charlie Frijns.
For Al Zubair the last race of the series capped an unbelievable debut season in which he has showed much promise, and progressed to deliver a category win in both the silver and Porsche GCC rookie classes.
After securing top honours in the silver category, and beating rival Bandar Alesayi of Saudi Arabia in what has been one of the standout tussles of the season, Al Zubair said, “That was an amazing way to end the season, it was such a close and exciting race from start to finish and the adrenaline is still pumping now. I had a good start from the grid but so did Charlie and Dylan and after turn one myself, Ryan Cullen, Dylan Pereira and Charlie Frijns were literally bumper to bumper. All I was worried about at this stage was the fact that I was in front of Bandar Alesayi, as I knew my dreams of winning the silver category would be made reality if I finished in a strong position.
“I focused on not making any mistakes or getting into any trouble but still felt myself wanting to push for third place and another podium to top off the weekend. I had a few opportunities to get past late on, but Charlie did well to defend and I had to settle for fourth. This weekend has showed just how far I have come since the start of the season and how much of a difference this championship can make for young drivers like myself.”
Thousands of fans had enjoyed a thrilling encounter that saw a battle unfold over ten laps of breath-taking action, all moments before the stars of the Formula 1 took to the track for the 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
At the chequered flag only 2.3 seconds separated a breakaway group of the top four drivers, condensing the series into a single race with Cullen determined to stamp his authority on the season and reign supreme in the showpiece event.
It was a fitting finale to the most competitive season in the eight year history of the championship and a perfect advertisement for the pure one-make racing that only Porsche offers drivers in the Middle East region.
Final race victory was a dream ending for champion Cullen. After dominating the season the Irishman completed a wonderful weekend, taking his overall tally of eight wins in the season.
Speaking as champion Cullen said: “I sealed the championship yesterday but it feels so good to finish the season with a win. There was less pressure today and I wanted to be able to go out and enjoy myself. I didn’t have the best of starts but after turn one I managed to keep the pressure on both Dylan and Charlie in front of me. I waited patiently as I didn’t want to do anything too silly but as soon as I saw my opportunity I made a move and managed to overtake both cars at the same time.
“It’s been a special weekend for me, I started my championship here in November with a win and now I’ve finished on the top step again 5 months later. I’m going away from the Middle East with huge confidence and will be looking to make the most of this form in Europe this summer.”
The final race once again proved just how competitive the Porsche GT3 Middle East Cup Challenge has become with every point hard earned between the best drivers in the region. Right from the opening lap Cullen’s rivals showed they wanted to have the final say of Season 8 and lay down a marker for Season 9. It would be no victory parade.
Pereira sprinted into an early lead on the opening corner overtaking Frijns and building a lead over the first three laps. But a blistering first sector of lap four saw Cullen rocket into the lead and push Pereira into second and Frijns third were they crossed the finish line.
Every driver in every category had a reason to push for points in the final race including the Bronze category, again showing the competitive nature of the championship. Home-grown teenage talents of Isa S. Al Khalifa who finished second in the bronze category and second in the GCC Rookie Category, just ahead of teammate Isa A. Al Khalifa who was the third placed rookie.
Just as the dust settles on the final round of season 8 following an incredible climax, already plans are well in motion for Season 9 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.