Schmid wins dramatic season opener in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Austria's Clemens Schmid has won the season opening of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) with an outstanding performance against the strongest grid ever assembled at the season's start.
After securing pole position on the seventeen-car grid, the 22-year-old driving for Dubai's Al Nabooda Racing produced a stunning race to take maximum points in the opening round,holding off challenges from rivals Abdulaziz AlFaisal of Saudi Arabia, who finished second, and Al Nabooda teammate Karim Al-Azhari in third.
Following his victory Schmid said: "It was a very tough race with Abdulaziz making life difficult for me. I had a very bad start; I was down to third in the first corner. But I fought my way through and overtook AlFaisal and maintained my lead."
Having lost the lead on the opening lap, the key moment of the race came in the ninth lap when Schmid managed to reel in the reigning champion with a bold overtaking into the first corner. Once ahead the Austrian charged to win by 4.959 seconds.
Starting and finishing in second place Saudi Falcons driver, Abdulaziz AlFaisal said: "My tires took a battering today which made it hard to keep consistency till the very end. Myself and Clemens were literally out in front the whole race. He just persisted and finally managed to get past me. I'm happy with my performance and feel confident about doing well in tomorrow's round as well."
In an enthralling race that was filled by fierce head to head battles, UAE's Karim Al-Azhari overcame a spirited return to racing for home favourite and former champion Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa who finished fourth for Team Bahrain.
The top six positions were completed by two new drivers to the series who enjoyed hugely impressive debuts. Kuwait's 18-year-old sensation Zaid Ashkanani announced his arrival onto the scene claiming fifth and 'Rookie of the Race', with the first female to race in the championship, Denmark's Christina Nielsen finishing a very credible sixth.
An overjoyed Ashkanani said: "I'm so happy that I made the podium. I can't wait to race again tomorrow and am glad I got to show everyone that even though I'm young that I'm a real contender in the GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Challenge. God willing tomorrow I can do better if not as good as I did today."
In the newly-installed Team Title, Al Nabooda Racing have gone into an early lead thanks to the first and third finishes from Schmid and Al-Azhari, with second position held by Saudi Falcons and third Team Bahrain.