Cullen first, Frijns second, Al Zubair third in Race1 of Round 2
Cullen speeds to second race win of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 8 at Dubai Autodrome
Ireland’s Ryan Cullen has raced to victory with an assured drive from pole position in the first race of the second round of Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Autodrome.
The Irishman took his second win of the season with ease and was untroubled throughout at the front of the competitive grid featuring 16 drivers from 12 different countries. Cullen eventually finished 0.563 seconds clear of Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns who finished where he started the race in second.
Third place went to surprise package of the championship, Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman who surprised organizers and even himself to make the overall race podium for the first time, a remarkable feat for the rookie driver.
After the win Ryan Cullen said; “I’m really happy, I got a great start and I was quite a bit ahead going into the first corner. I saw everybody else fighting behind me so I just got my head down and pushed to create a bigger gap with the grip I had. There was an accident just behind me and when the safety car came out, it took away the lead I had and the hard work I put in. When the race continued, Charlie Frijns was very close to catching me but I just focused and managed to re-gain a bit of a lead and win the race.
“The main aim was to qualify in first and win the race today, that is what I did, and I am over the moon with the performance!”
There was a huge crowd, perfect warm conditions in Dubai and a tightly packed grid with only two seconds separating the top ten places in qualifying. But the race didn’t quite live up to the excitement of the opening round. Unfortunately an incident involving early championship leader Dylan Pereira and Saudi Arabia’s Bandar Alesayi saw the safety-car deployed for five of the twelve laps.
Once the action got back underway there was little chance for overtaking. The top six positions were completed by Tom Oliphant of Britain in fourth, slightly ahead from a chasing pack which included Germany’s Wolfgang Triller, who finished fifth and UAE-resident Bashar Mardini in sixth. For Mardini racing on his home circuit the result is a massive boost to his podium ambitions, after making a sizable improvement on his opening round results in Bahrain.
After coming sixth overall and third in the silver category Dubai-based Mardini said: ““I am feeling happy, surprised, and a bit relieved I think. It was a hectic race, I got a good start and didn’t lose any positions which I was happy with. When the crash happened it worked in my favour slightly as it bunched up the field again and kept us close together for three or four laps. When the race re-started it was very difficult, I lost a position to Wolfgang Triller who is a very experienced driver. He got a better exit out of the last corner and overtook me. I continued to fight for my position and really happy that I managed to finish on the podium in this very competitive category.”
“Going from a 15th place finish in Bahrain to a 6th place finish here is a massive improvement. If I can keep myself within the top ten and sneak onto the podium a few times this season I will be extremely satisfied.”
Saturday’s second race in Dubai will once again feature a diverse grid comprising of professional, amateurs and rookies from around the world. Drivers from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Luxenberg, Sweden and Turkey have descended upon Dubai to challenge local stars representing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia, in the region’s most professional and established race series.
With all drivers competing in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, the one-make series will race across three world class regional racing circuits, namely the Bahrain International Circuit, Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi between November 2016 and April 2017.