Schmid one step closer to first championship with victory in Round 11 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in Bahrain
Clemens Schmid of Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing has won Round 11 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) and taken a step closer to winning his first championship in the leading one-make series in the region.
Starting on pole position on the 15-car grid, Schmid produced a perfect performance from the front to move 12-points clear from main-rival Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal in a riveting two-horse race in the fourth season of the series. Home favourite Mohammed Mattar showed his racing potential and bright future claiming third following a brave overtaking manoeuvre on Karim Al-Azhari on the last lap of the race.
Victory for the 21-year-old Austrian, his seventh in a row, means he will be crowned champion tomorrow if he simply finishes above Abdulaziz in the final race of the season or within the top eight.
Speaking after securing his ninth victory this season, Schmid said: “It is a perfect result for me and the team. I have extended my lead over Abdulaziz and want to produce the same tomorrow to win the championship. It was a tough start to the race, but it gradually got easier as I created a gap between myself and Abdulaziz.
The title head-to-head began with both challengers starting first and second on the grid and Mattar in third position as he looked to pile the pressure on Faisal BinLaden in the Silver Michelin category.
Reigning champion, AlFaisal, said after his second place finish: “I am focused to move on from this and push really hard in Round 12 to hold on to the title. I survived a tight first corner but Schmid gradually created a huge gap which I could not close. There was some dirt on the track, which took me three laps to clean off the tyres, but by then it was too late.”
With the championship at stake Schmid held his nerve and position on the crucial first corner. Once ahead he stayed ahead, building upon his lead over the 12-lap 5.411KM BIC, with the Austrian never troubled by those behind him.
As the two leading drivers Schmid and AlFaisal opened a gap on the chasing pack, the real action was to complete the top six positions and the podiums places for the Silver and Bronze categories.
Team Bahrain’s Mattar, starting third on the grid, lost his position on the first corner on the opening lap to Al-Azhari. The UAE-based driver maintained his place, despite being under immense pressure from the young Bahraini. The fight continued until the final lap, when Mattar made the most of a mistake by Al-Azhari to take the final podium position.
After his finishing 3rd in the race, a repeat of his best result of the season in Round 8, local hero Mohammed Mattar said: “After a really good qualifying I’d an awful start and fell back to 5th position. But I got up to 4th again during the opening laps and started to push hard. Karim (Al-Azhari) used all his experience to stop me from passing lap after lap but I managed to finally overtake on the last lap. It’s a great feeling especially on my home circuit. In the silver category I’m still second but I’ve reduced the gap to only 12 points on Faisal BinLaden and I’ll be trying to do even better tomorrow.”
Saudi Falcons, Faisal Binladen, the leader of the Silver Michelin category finished in fifth place, while Netherlands Charlie Frijns completed the top six, his highest position of the season after he saw off the challenge of Italian Antonio Giancola.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship standings after Round 11 are: 1st Clemens Schmid (253 points), 2nd Abdulaziz AlFaisal (241 points), 3rd Karim Al-Azhari (199 points), 4th Faisal BinLaden (178 points), 5th Mohammed Mattar (167 points), 6th Ashkanani (152 points).