Saudi Falcons fly in rainy Race 2 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Round 3 in Qatar
Stand-in driver Jeffrey Schmidt helped the Saudi Falcons to a sensational victory in a rainy Race 2 of Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Losail International Circuit in Qatar with Abdulaziz AlFaisal finishing fourth.
In place of the absent Faisal Binladen, rookie driver Jeffrey Schmidt stepped into the Saudi Falcons team, qualifying on pole with Abdulaziz AlFaisal seventh. 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 considerably as the main event approached.
Abdulaziz AlFaisal started strongly, capitalising on an early mistake by Clemens Schmid to move up to third behind the in-form Zaid Ashkanani. From there the two-time former champion held his own but a rare mistake saw him drop a spot to fourth which he staunchly defended to the end from his Saudi countryman Fahad Algosaibi. The results saw AlFaisal move up to third in the overall drivers’ championship and the Saudi Falcons storm the team standings, moving clear into second 38 points behind leading team Al Nabooda Racing.
Speaking after the race Al Faisal said; “I started seventh and finished fourth so that’s progress and I’m delighted to have moved up to third in the drivers’ championship. I had a great start and it was all going well but I made a slight mistake which cost me time and a place so that was a bit of a let-down. Overall though it’s been a successful weekend, Jeffrey did a great job for us today which builds on the work myself and Faisal Binladen have been putting in over the season, and we will continue to push for more points.”
Starting from pole position and sitting in for Faisal Binladen, Schmidt produced a flying start to canter through to a 5.750 seconds victory. The Swiss with a burgeoning reputation in motorsport in his teenage years, dominated from the rolling start and never looked threatened as he accelerated away from 17-car grid ensuring a large haul of points for the team.
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 to the race but adaptability is key to success in racing and I’m really happy to have taken top spot here today.”
Championship leader 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.