Al Nabooda’s Schmid wins Round 5 at Dubai Autodrome
Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing has won Round 5 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome with a dominating performance from start to finish against one of the strongest grids ever assembled in the series.
After starting pole on the 15-car grid, the young Austrian, fashioned a flawless race to claim maximum points on the 10-lap 5.390 KM Dubai Autodrome Circuit, seeing off challenges from rival and defending champion Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons, who finished second and surprise package Raed Raffii of Team Bahrain in third.
With the series heading into the winter break following tomorrow's Round 6, the result means Abdulaziz leads in the championship standings with 117 points, Schmid in second on 103 points and Al-Azhari in third on 96 points after 5 Rounds of the region's most exciting race series.
Having blown away the field with a victory by 5:502 seconds over AlFaisal, a delighted Schmid: "The only time I was in trouble out there was on the very first corner. I didn't realize just how slippery it was out there. After surviving that scare I managed to build up a good gap and with 5 laps to go I was able to save tires. It ended up being a fairly easy win in the end.
"I love this track. It is my favourite in the region. Karim made it easier for me by battling with AlFaisal. While them two were fighting it out, it gave me the opportunity to extend my lead over AlFaisal and cruise to victory. But I expect AlFaisal to be back tomorrow and give me more of a challenge," added Schmid.
The impressive display by Dubai-based Schmid on what is considered his home track in the Middle East resulted in the real battle being for second place. For much of the early race UAE's Karim Al-Azhari held onto second before AlFaisal passed him at the midway point. Once into second the Saudi driver could not narrow the gap on Schmid despite his best efforts.
An upbeat seconded placed AlFaisal said: "I started second and finished second so it wasn't too bad. But I had an awful start and made the same mistake as Clemens on the first corner. By the time I recovered I'd lost three places but fought back. It took me a few laps to get past Karim (Al-Azhari) and by the time I did Clemens was clear. I recorded the fastest lap of the race so I'm going to be pushing hard tomorrow for Round 6."
It was a disappointing day for UAE's only racer Al-Azhari who finished third on the track but was imposed a 20 seconds penalty following a jump start, resulting in a 7th place finish for the Al Nabooda driver. Despite the penalty Al Nabooda Racing maintained their lead over Saudi Falcons by 8 points and Team Bahrain by 25 points in the overall team standings.
Al-Azhari said: "I made a simple mistake at the grid, where I was trying to find the biting point, but I crept forward of the grid. Rules are rules and I was judged to have broken them. I am sorry for the team and I have to make it up in Round 6."
The surprise of Round 5 saw a hugely encouraging performance by the Team Bahrain who won the Team Title category thanks to the individual performances of Raed Raffii and Mohammed Mattar.
Raffii, starting fifth on the grid, overcame a stiff challenge from Faisal Binladen to claim his first podium finish in the championship securing third. Meanwhile, team-mate Mattar produced a sensational drive to finish fourth after starting eleventh on the grid.
Team Bahrain's Raffii said after his podium finish: "This is one of my best performances in my racing career. I had a good battle with Binladen and Al Thani and had to find the speed to overcome them two. It is a proud moment for me to finish in the top three and there is more to come from me."
Mattar was happy to help his team win the Team Title category in Round 5. He said: "To start eleventh on the grid and finish fourth is an incredible feeling. It was important to finish as high as possible to claim valuable points for the Team Title."
An equally strong performance by Christina Nielsen saw the up and coming Danish star grab 5th place having started in 8th. The only female driver to have ever raced in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East said: "I had a poor qualifying and a bad start from the dirty side of the grid but then I pushed hard. It's the race that counts and I'm pleased with 5th as it could have been even better. We have tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that."
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Team Standings after Round 5 are: 1st Al Nabooda (199 points) 2nd Saudi Falcons (191 points), 3rd Team Bahrain (174 points).
Season 4 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East continues in the United Arab Emirates with Rounds 6 scheduled to take place at the Dubai Autodrome on the14th December 2012.