Bahrain drivers finish second and third in new GCC Porsche Rookie Championship
Today’s opening race of Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was won by Ireland’s Ryan Cullen as Bahrain’s Isa A. Al Khalifa and Isa S. Al Khalifa starred in the newly announced GCC Porsche Rookie Championship.
In a response to the growing strength of championship and the influx of emerging race talent from the GCC region making their debut, organisers introduced a new category to inspire rookie drivers.
It was an opportunity the teenage pair from Bahrain seized with both hands in the first race. Isa A. Al Khalifa finished 2nd in the Rookie category and eighth in the overall race standings while teammate Isa S. Al Khalifa was the third placed Rookie on his debut and an impressive 12th overall. Third Bahraini driver Hamad Al Khalifa also had a successful first outing with victory in the Bronze category and tenth overall.
The new rookie category will see four young racing prodigies from the GCC pitted against each other for the title over the 12 race season between November 2016 and April 2017. Al Faisal Al Zubair from Oman finished top in the Rookie category and Mohammed Al Saud of Saudi Arabia came fourth.
At the end of the race Isa S. Al Khalifa said: “Tonight was unbelievable – last week in testing was my first time in the car so going from that to this race weekend was so much pressure. Everything came together tonight and I am really happy with my performance. To get on the podium in the first race for the GCC Rookie Championship means everything and tomorrow I will be pushing harder and hoping for another podium finish.
“The new category is extremely important for the series and for myself. Four of the drivers in the category are from the GCC and we are all new to the season, it would be a privilege to just get to the podium and get that rookie championship but we will all be aiming for the same thing. I think this category opens up another step for young drivers in the Middle East and provides another reason to drive in this championship and develop their racing amongst drivers of their own age.”
The first race was eventually won by Cullen in a gripping finish by only 0.035 seconds from a charging Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg in second. The final step of the podium went to Britain’s Tom Oliphant following a three way battle against Denis Olsen and Charlie Frijns. As predicted the first race was very open with bold overtaking lap after lap with a series of new rivalries forged. If the rest of Season 8 follows the standard and excitement of the opening race motorsports fans in the region are in for a treat.
Walter Lechner, the owner of Lechner Racing, and founder and manager of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East added: “This is the type of opening race and grid we always wanted to have. One that is full of promise and a next generation of drivers from this region, racing against quality international drivers. Congratulations to our winner Ryan Cullen, but I’d like to pay tribute to the young Team Bahrain drivers. It is not easy to race on your home track and make your debut against such stiff competition. Both drivers handled the occasion perfectly and have a lot to be proud of.
“From the very start our vision was to build a platform to fuel passions of young and talented regional drivers and for dreams of a racing career to come true. With the introduction of such promising young local drivers this season we wanted to support those making their debuts.
“I think we are at the start of a very special journey for motorsport in the Middle East. It has taken years of commitment, effort and support from many people to get this far but it’s worth it when you see the sheer excitement in eyes of our drivers and such a strong line-up.”
The second race is scheduled on Saturday, 19th November at the Bahrain International Circuit just ahead of the ‘Six Hours of Bahrain, the season finale of the World Endurance Championship.
With all drivers competing in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, the one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2016 and April 2017 over six pulsating weekends across three world class regional racing circuits, namely the Bahrain International Circuit, Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.