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Bashar Mardini reflects on most competitive Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East

Less than a few days since Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East took the final chequered flag in Bahrain. The successful competitors have been reflecting on what has been described as the most exciting and challenging season so far, and how they will be building on their experience gained in the region’s leading one make racing series.

The UAE’s Bashar Mardini, who is no stranger to regional motorsport, committed to a full season of Porsche GT3 Cup action in November last year, and has been on a learning journey even at this stage of his racing career. The main aim for Mardini was to drive a full consistent season in the championship, he has featured in the past as a guest driver but wanted more, and to understand what a championship like the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East could offer him at a later stage of his driving profession. 

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East prides itself on being the only professional one-make racing series in the region that offers, not only a platform for young aspiring drivers to develop, but also a route into motorsport for more experienced and established drivers that have not had the opportunity to compete at this level.  

Speaking a few days after the dramatic Season 8 finale in Bahrain, Bashar Mardini said, “This was my first full championship in my whole racing career. I had some ideas as to what I wanted to achieve in terms of finishing positions and performances, and I have definitely seen across the season where I need to go from here. I set myself targets of finishing in the top ten, making the silver podium on more than one occasion, and trying to finish a race in the top six overall. I finished 10th in the championship, featured on the silver podium twice and finished in sixth position in one race this season, so overall I think I did quite well. 

“I’ve definitely improved as a racing driver, my team has helped me work with my overall speed and qualifying times and that has helped me to adapt to the car and the high level of driving in the series. I’ve learnt a lot about my own mentality and confidence on and off the track, so moving forward this will definitely help me progress at a quicker rate wherever I drive next.”  

With a perfect balance of seasoned professionals and young, exciting regional and European racing talent. The mixture of youth versus experience, and passion over excitement continues to create an incredibly unique series for motorsport fans to follow in the Middle East. 

Bashar Mardini commented on the championship’s vision of providing a platform for young regional racing talent. He said, “I looked at the grid this season and I saw several young drivers from around the region, if you look in particular at Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman and the two Al Khalifa drivers of Bahrain, they are all under the age of 21 which is quite remarkable. At the start of the season, these young drivers were off the pace, and still being given an education lesson. In the final rounds of the season both Al Khalifa drivers were competing and finishing mid pack, and Al Faisal Al Zubair provided the best example of progression in the last round of the season, qualifying on pole position and winning the first race.

“Whether you are an experienced pro, gentleman driver or young upcoming star, this series provides the correct learning experience for every driver at different stages of their career.”

The 2016/17 season was the eighth instalment since the championship was started by Walter Lechner in Bahrain in 2009. This season has arguably been the best to date, and the closest since its inception, with the top five drivers in the championship finishing with only 73 points between them. 

Speaking on the success of Season 8, Walter Lechner, founder and head of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said, “Season 8 has to be one of the most entertaining and thrilling campaigns I’ve seen since I started the series eight years ago. I think the combination of drivers in each category was a perfect balance and offered both young and hungry newcomers, mixed with seasoned drivers consistently looking to improve. We’ve seen some close season finale’s over the years but with all three categories still undecided coming into the final round, and with drivers from first to sixth place in the standings still being able to finish in the top three overall, this set up the perfect end to an incredibly competitive season. It also showcases the strength and depth of the grid and highlights that we have a Middle East series that offers something for everyone. 

“For young regional talent like Bahrain’s Isa S. Al Khalifa, Isa A. Al Khalifa and Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will help to build their motorsport careers, and can provide a pathway into world-class international motorsport at the highest level. Professional drivers from Europe are becoming more and more interested in competing out here with us in the off-season, it provides a competitive environment with plenty of track time, and helps them either maintain their form over the winter break or develop new confidence to go back and compete in Europe in the summer.  

“Nothing else in the Middle East provides a platform like this, to create and define motorsport careers and we’re already looking forward to the upcoming edition and the new talent which will fill the grid.” 

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will return later on this year and with plenty to settle on the track from Season 8, the ninth edition with the addition of the new Porsche GT3 Cup car is set to be an exhilarating return.

For further details, driver profiles and latest information on the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East please visit the official website: www.gt3cupchallenge-me.com

or follow the series’ news at www.facebook.com/porscheGT3CCME or on Twitter @PorscheGT3CCME.

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Bahrain International Circuit

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