Ashkanani makes it back-to-back podiums in Round 3 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in rainy Qatar
Kuwaiti teenage sensation Zaid Ashkanani powered to second place for the second time in two days with a faultless driving performance in a wet Race 2 of Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
Starting at night, the race took place under the lights at Losail International Circuit with Ashkanani finishing behind rookie driver Jeffrey Schmidt who was representing the Saudi Falcons, and ahead of defending champion Clemens Schmid.
After a day of light rain, the drivers battled with slippery conditions at Losail which saw many spin out of practice and qualifying including overall drivers’ championship leader Clemens Schmid. The race began with a rolling start brought on by the conditions which improved substantially in the lead up to the race. Ashkanani started from fourth in what was just his first time driving in wet conditions. A strong opening stage saw him capitalise on an early and rare mistake by Al Nabooda’s Schmid who took the victory in Race 1. From second Ashkanani was untouchable but lacked the pace to make up any ground on Swiss youngster Jeffrey Schmidt who led from start to finish.
The podium finish means Ashkanani further cements his second place in the overall drivers’ championship and also makes up a few points on leader Clemens Schmid whom he now trails by 27 points.
Speaking after his second consecutive second place in as many days Ashkanani said; “I’ve had a great weekend in Qatar and I’m really happy with the result. I’m continuing to learn with every race and driving in the rain was a new experience which went about as well as it could have. Qualifying could have gone better but I made the most out of it and now we look forward to returning to Qatar for more action in two weeks.”
The second place double ensures the growing Buzaid GT team moves up to third in the team championship after just two races. Announced at the start of the Qatar weekend, Buzaid GT recruited Christina Nielsen in order to challenge more competitively in the team standings. Their efforts have been rewarded with team just 16 points behind the second placed Saudi Falcons.
A flawless drive from teenage star Jeffrey Schmidt, driving for the Saudi Falcons in place of Faisal Binladen, ensured a large haul of points for the team. Starting from pole the Swiss youngster only built on his early lead to take the chequered flag with his teammate for the weekend, Abdulaziz AlFaisal, finishing fourth after starting seventh.
Speaking after his victory Schmidt said, “I’m super happy that I could score a lot of points for Saudi Falcons as I was standing in for Faisal Binladen; I’m just really glad I could bring it home. I was concentrating hard on not making any mistakes as it’s really dirty next to the racing line. Any error could have cost a lot of time so it was crucial to stay focussed. The conditions changed from practice to qualifying and then the race but adaptability is key to success in racing and I’m really happy to have taken top spot here today.”
Championship leader Clemens Schmid, starting second on the grid, was involved in a tough battle throughout the race against Ashkanani and Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal. In lap three, Schmid lost his second place position and dropped down the pecking order as Ashkanani and AlFaisal took advantage of the Austrian’s error. However, Schmid showed his champion qualities to fight back and claim third place.
With an absorbing battle for places on the podium, the race to complete the top six was just as captivating with positions interchanging regularly. Starting third on the grid, Salman Al Khalifa of Team Bahrain fell down the field in the first lap and after a mid-grid battle was unable to complete the race, withdrawing in lap ten.
Saudi’s Fahad Algosaibi kept hold of his position throughout the race despite constant pressure from Christina Nielsen and Karim Al-Azhari to claim fifth position. The fight for the final spot was absorbing with Nielsen keeping hold of the position for the majority of the race before the veteran Al Nabooda Racing driver Al-Azhari showed there was no substitute for experience to take sixth position and claim the points for his team.
The series returns to the Losail International Circuit for Round 4 on 31st January and 1st February 2014.
Overall championship standings after Round 3
Al Nabooda Racing
Hasher Al Maktoum
Skydive Dubai Falcons
Al Nabooda Racing
Saeed Al Mehairi
Skydive Dubai Falcons