Championship leader Charlie Frijns of Qatar reflects on season opening
Race for Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East shows no sign of cooling off during short winter break
After two sensational rounds of race action in season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, a short winter break is unlikely to slow the hectic pace of the most competitive season in the championship’s history.
The mouth-watering ingredients of a new and expanded grid with 16 drivers’ from 12 different countries, including nine newcomers to the series, has proved the perfect recipe for action-packed racing. Four races into the 12-race season and there is nothing to split the top two drivers, Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns and Ryan Cullen of Ireland who both sit level on 90 points each.
It’s just as close throughout the entire field. Less than five points separate the first and second places across gold, silver and bronze categories, and no podium has been the same on any of the four occasions so far. Even qualifying has proved ridiculously tight. In the second round in Dubai less than two seconds divided the first seven drivers on the grid.
For Charlie Frijns, who races with his father Rob as part of Frijns Steel Middle East, the break until Round 3 on 27th & 28th January at the Dubai Autodrome offers a chance to reflect on the opening two rounds.
Looking back championship leader Frijns said: “This is exactly the start I needed, and there is no better place to be than sitting at the top of the championship going into the break. The competition is very high this season which makes winning twice even more special. Especially after a three year wait! This has given me the extra confidence I needed to show the best of my ability. Although I have done well, it definitely hasn’t been easy and I’m really determined to stay at the front. I will be taking this break as an opportunity to build on what I have already started.
Despite the winter break only just starting, already drivers are setting their sights on Round 3 and a return to the Dubai Autodrome for the second of two back to back rounds on the testing UAE circuit. Especially those who are making their debut in the region’s leading series like Tom Oliphant.
After two rounds the experienced UK driver, Oliphant is sitting comfortably behind Frijns and Cullen in third place. However he will be aware that only 30 points separate him from seventh place in the standings, a great testament to how close the season is.
Charlie Frijns started the championship in Bahrain knowing that consistency in his performances would be the deciding factor of where he finishes in the standings in Season 8. In previous seasons the younger Frijns has shown that he is capable of getting to the front of the pack. But being able to stay there long enough to win races was something that he needs to work on. There has been a marked improvement this season. So far he has reached the podium an impressive three times in the first four races and will hope he can carry the same winning form into 2017.
He added: “I am looking forward to returning to the Dubai Autodrome in January. I know the track very well now and I hope my experience and knowledge will again help me to get the points needed to stay at the top of the table moving forward!”
Speaking on the championship so far, owner of Lechner racing, and founder of the series, Walter Lechner, said: “We have worked very hard to get the championship in a position like this. It is great to see a full grid of 16 cars, and even better not being able to predict where the drivers will finish. The competition from the first to the very last car across the finish line is intense and we have seen over the first two rounds that everyone has a chance of winning their category. These drivers are living their dreams and gaining so much from the experience.
“The new drivers have come in and performed very well. With the addition of some of the more fearless younger drivers, each race is more and more thrilling to watch. This is what motor racing should be about, and bringing this drive, determination, and passion to the Middle East is something that I am very proud of.”
For racing fans in the UAE, the return of the spectacular Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East to the Dubai Autodrome in January will provide the perfect opportunity to follow the championship from the stands, and witness the exhilarating Porsche action first hand.
The championship will not move far for Round 4, remaining in the UAE as drivers descend on the popular Yas Marina, Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi to mark the halfway stage of the season on 10th -11th February. Bahrain will welcome the drivers back to the home of the Porsche GT3 CCME series for the remaining two rounds, with Round 5 taking place on the 10th -11th March and Round 6 taking place in April 2017 in the form of the Bahrain F1 support race.