Drivers get back into action at the Reem International Circuit
The strongest grid in the history of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East swept into action in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as testing and qualifying got under way ahead of Rounds 7 and 8 Reem International Circuit.
Fifteen drivers from across the region took to the 3.2 KM circuit for the first time after the winter break with five one-hour practice sessions, followed by qualifying for Round 7 as the drivers got used to the sand swept circuit.
In the most interesting qualifying session of the season so far many of the big guns were overpowered by the new generation of racers in Porsche GT3. The exception was Al Nabooda’s Clemens Schmid who found himself in familiar territory taking pole position for the early evening race.
The young Austrian is joined on the front row by Faisal Binladen, who produced his fastest laps of the season to start second on the grid, while Saudi teenager Fahad Algosaibi, in his one-off race weekend on a break from studies in China, defied the pecking order to start third on the grid.
Reigning champion and home favourite Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons was pushed down to fourth, with Kuwaiti sensation Zaid Ashkanani in 5th and UAE’s Karim Al-Azhari completing the top 6 places on the grid.
Al Nabooda’s Schmid, who is looking to build on his consecutive round wins in Rounds 5 and 6 at the Dubai Autodrome and pile the pressure on AlFaisal feels his fast-pace is perfectly suited to the circuit.
Speaking grabbing pole the young Austrian, who won Round 7 at Reem in Season 3 said: “It is a great start to the day. I won here last season and hopefully I can do it again. The conditions of the track have completely changed from yesterday and we are gaining better grip on the tyres. But I believe Faisal Binladen and Fahad will give me a tough race. I expect Abdulaziz to come back strong and be in the running to win the race. I am not counting him out.”
One of the surprise stories in Round 7 qualifying, Faisal BinLaden said; ““I produced one of my fastest performances of the season today. Everything seemed perfect for me. The conditions have changed and hopefully they will remain the same for Round 7. I have had tough races on this circuit, but I know it very well. I am confident of picking up my first win of the season.”
The youngest driver on the circuit and one of the finds of the season, Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani, was excited with his first outing on the circuit despite the sandy conditions which meant the drivers did not have a good grip.
The 18-year-old, currently in fourth position, shared the views of other drivers as far as the track was concerned. He added: “I have consistently started in the top six on the gird throughout the season. The condition, with the fast pace suit my driving style, so I am targeting at least a podium finish. With Karim, starting in sixth, I now have a great opportunity to close the gap on him in the championship standings.”
Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East said: “It is great to be back after the winter break and I believe we will witness one of the closest championship finishes in the history of the series. It is moments like this that drivers practice hard and come into motorsport. Who could have expected a top three in qualifying like this. I’m sure the race will be equally as thrilling especially with over 10,000 spectators expected for both days. We are in for two fantastic races this weekend.”
Round 7 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 6th February at 4pm KSA time at Reem International Circuit.