Ireland’s Cullen first, Britain’s Oliphant second and Frijns of Qatar third Race2 of Round 4
Cullen cruises to victory in second race at Yas Marina Circuit in Round 4 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
After a high-octane Race 2 of Round 4 at the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, Irishman Ryan Cullen secured his fifth win of the championship in sensational style.
Starting second on the grid, alongside guest driver and Race 1 winner Charlie Eastwood, Cullen’s scorching start allowed him to enter turn one side-by-side with Eastwood, holding his nerve to come out of the bend race leader. UK driver Tom Oliphant jumped his fellow Porsche Carrera Cup driver Eastwood on lap one too, before Dylan Pereira in fourth also gave it a shot. Pereira and Eastwood wrestled for third, resulting in a small collision yet a costly drive-through time penalty for Eastwood and Pereira dropping to last on the grid.
Cullen finished a comfortable 3.8 seconds ahead of Oliphant in second and 7.9 seconds ahead of Qatari resident Charlie Frijns, both challengers to Cullen’s championship title hopes. The talented Irishman has now pulled ahead of the title race, extending his lead over Charlie Frijns to 23 points, but all is still to drive for as the series heads back to Bahrain for the season’s final two rounds.
Fresh from the podium, race champion Cullen said: “It was a good race with a great start, resulting in me taking the lead. I could see a collision between Charlie Eastwood and Dylan Pereira behind me. I then noticed the drive-through penalty for Charlie, so as I saw him coming, I did not put up too much of a fight.
“I’ve been starting great this season - that has always been my strength. From fifth on the grid yesterday to finish second and now second to win today, it all feels great. Very happy with where I am in this championship and everything I’ve taken from it so far.”
UAE driver Bashar Mardini ended the race in a solid seventh place. Speaking about the action-packed race, Mardini commented: “It was a very eventful race. I had a poor start, but managed to finish it well. I was lucky that some drivers’ battles managed to clear the way for me. Now, I am going to switch off and not think too much. The time for next round will come and hopefully I could end this season on a high during the Bahrain double-header.”
Leaders Cullen and Oliphant experienced a relatively clear track as they separated themselves from the rest of the grid lap-on-lap. Oliphant had an outstanding race, after a disappointing fifth in Race 1. The UK driver showed fight in qualifying to secure a second row start, which he took advantage off in lap one to take second.
Frijns who started in fifth and lost a place to Alesayi in turn one, kept his composure and worked his way defiantly up to third, putting in his fastest laps of the weekend when it counted to limit Cullen’s lead on him in the overall standings.
Saudi driver Alesayi had an interesting race, moving up from his sixth place start to finish fourth overall due to faults by Pereira and Eastwood. He kept his head to finish comfortably on top of the silver category and clocked the quickest lap in his class. Behind him fellow Silver Category drivers Al Zubair and Triller had their own race, fighting it out lap-on-lap for fifth. Outstanding young Omani Al Zubair, held his own on the track and met the chequered flag in fifth for a second place podium spot.
Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East continues back at Bahrain International Circuit on March 3rd and 4th 2017.
The championship represents the most professional series of its kind in the region and offers a proven pathway to world-class international motorsport. Season 8 features an international grid of 16 drivers representing 12 different nationalities covering every level of competition from professionals, amateurs and rookie drivers. International drivers hail from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Luxenberg, Sweden and Turkey with the best local drivers representing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.