AlFaisal back on the podium in Qatar as Saudi Falcons turn up the heat in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Abdulaziz AlFaisal produced a gritty and tireless performance to finish third in Race 1 of Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, under the lights at Losail International Circuit with Al Nabooda’s Clemens Schmid taking the victory once again.
Qualifying in fourth the Saudi Falcons star had work to do from the start managing to squeeze past Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani into third coming up to the first corner. From there the battle for top six swung wildly throughout the race as the drivers pushed themselves and their new 911 GT3 Cup cars to the limit.
In place of the absent Faisal Binladen, rookie driver Jeffrey Schmidt stepped into the Saudi Falcons team, qualifying in second. After a poor start from Clemens Schmid, the Saudi team’s replacement driver was able to beat him off the line and lead the pack into turn one. As the race wore on so did Schmidt’s tyres and the youngster started to drop down the field allowing his team mate Al Faisal to pass him into third behind eventual winner Schmid and Zaid Ashkanani.
Speaking after his podium finish Al Faisal said; “That was a tough race, really flat out from the beginning. I made a bit of a mistake in turn 12 which cost me time but overall I’m delighted to be on the podium. If you look at our times we’re catching up with the other teams, we’re getting faster and that is what we have been working towards. In the early rounds we struggled but now we’re much more competitive and so are the races. The top times are incredibly close and the races are getting more and more exciting.”
The UAE-based Clemens Schmid, who has won all the races with the exception of Race 2 in Dubai, controlled the contest after regaining his pole position in lap two, which saw the first appearance of the all-new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in Qatar.
Following his victory by 3.384 seconds, Schmid said: “An unbelievable race - especially after I lost my position in the first lap. But once I got in-front in lap two I controlled the race to win by a good margin. Usually by having pole position you have the advantage but I had to fight back and didn’t want to finish second again. I am happy for the team as it means we extend our lead in the Team title, but we have to go again today in Race 2.”
Fresh from his victory in Dubai and starting third on the grid, Zaid Ashkanani showed his pedigree as a future series champion by overtaking Jeffrey Schmidt in lap five and, just as in Dubai, kept his composure to see off the challenge of AlFaisal and claim his third runner-up spot of the fifth season.
For Ashkanani, it was another mature display under the lights at the Losail International Circuit. “I am delighted with the result and following up from Dubai. I was under constant pressure from AlFaisal but managed to keep my focus and secure a podium place.”
As Schmid marched to another triumph, the battle to complete the top six was just as absorbing. With Saudi Falcons replacement Schmidt leading the race in the first lap, he fell back into midfield battle with Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al Azhari and Skydive Dubai Falcons Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum who continued his impressive run of finishing in the top six of every race.
Schmidt and Al Azhari were neck and neck from lap six with neither driver giving an inch. On the final lap, the pair interchanged positions before Al Azhari edged the Swiss driver into fourth on the line to claim valuable team title points with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum coming into sixth. His teammate Saeed Al Mehairi aided his team’s quest for the team championship by coming ninth.