Inspired Ashkanani raring to go in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani has set his sights on further success in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as the region’s most professional racing series returns to Qatar to kick-start an action packed 2014 following the winter break.
Ashkanani currently sits third in the drivers’ standings after an incredible start to the fifth season which saw him secure his first Porsche series win. The season opening Round 1 in Bahrain set the tone for the teenage sensation as he battled to finish second in both Race 1 and Race 2. Round 2 in Dubai started poorly for the Team BuzaidGT driver as he was forced out of Race 1. However tenacity has become a hallmark of the young driver’s style and he bounced back with flair to claim his first pole position in Race 2 qualifying. Ashkanani once again demonstrated his racing credentials to lead from the start with an inspired and finely judged drive under intense pressure to claim his maiden victory in the series.
For Ashkanani the attention now turns to Qatar as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East rolls on to Losail International Circuit for Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series.
Speaking ahead of Race 1 in Qatar Ashkanani said: “Dubai was an unbelievable weekend of racing and the highlight of my career so far. Now I have to use that win as a platform to build further. We have high hopes for the season but one victory is not going to be enough so the hard work starts now and Qatar is set to be the next step.”
“The competition this year is incredibly tight and the races have been action packed. I want to prove that my success in the series so far has not been down to luck so I’ll be pushing my hardest at Losail and hopefully that’s going to mean some exciting races for the fans”, added Ashkanani.
Ashkanani and series leader Clemens Schmid produced the most exciting race of the season so far in Round 2’s Race 2. Starting on pole position for the first time, Ashkanani produced a mature race, defying his age and experience in only his second season of professional motor-racing.
The Kuwaiti was fast off the blocks at the start, taking full advantage of his pole position and seeing off the usually quick starter Schmid on the first lap. Once in front, Ashkanani controlled the pace until the final lap.
The Austrian got the hammer down and closed the gap with both drivers colliding towards the final corner, but Ashkanani evaded the final challenge and beat the reigning champion to the chequered flag, with Abdulaziz AlFaisal claiming his first podium of the fifth season in third.
Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East said: “It was one of the most mature drives I have seen, especially for a teenager. He was aware of the intense pressure from Schmid and AlFaisal but was very composed, especially on the final lap. Other drivers would have buckled, but he kept his concentration. He now needs to go to the Qatar rounds and show everyone that this was not a one-off.”
Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid represents the benchmark Ashkanani will have to reach if he is to continue his progress through the ranks; the defending champion currently leads the drivers’ standings and shows no sign that he is willing to relinquish his crown without a fight.
Looking ahead to the Qatar rounds, Schmid said: “Zaid is coming good on the promise he showed last season and he has continued to develop. This year he has been getting quicker and quicker which is great as I enjoy the competition between us. He was fast in Race 2 in Dubai and I wasn’t able to catch him and had to settle for second. However we’ve had a good bit of time back at the drawing board so although we expect a tough challenge, I’m confident in our set up for Qatar. We have a comfortable lead in the Team title category and we will look to extend this further.”
Next stop for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is the Losail International Circuit, Qatar for Round 3 on 17th and 18th January 2014.
Overall championship standings after Round 2
Al Nabooda Racing
Hasher Al Maktoum
Skydive Dubai Falcons
Al Nabooda Racing