Schmidt wins opening race of Season 7 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in Bahrain
A stunning drive by newcomer Jeffrey Schmidt of Al Nabooda Racing in the first race of Season 7 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Bahrain International Circuit gave the young driver based in the UAE a dream start to the championship.
Schmidt secured the victory by a winning margin of 3.449 seconds over Ryan Cullen of Ireland in second, and Skydive Dubai Falcon's Saeed Al Mehairi in third. All four of the UAE drivers finished in the top six positions with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum of Skydive Dubai Falcons in fourth, Al Nabooda Racing's Zaid Ashkanani in fifth and Wolfgang Triller of Germany sixth.
Speaking after his debut win for Al Nabooda Racing, Schmidt said: "Everything went as planned. I got a good start and managed to lead after the first corner. There was some early pressure from Charlie (Frijns) but after the second lap it was a comfortable win in the end. I was able to drive within myself and I'm really pleased for the team. It was great to get maximum points in my first race with Zaid (Ashkanani) also claiming value points for the team. I'm on pole tomorrow so it's been a strong start."
The first encounter of the twelve race championship scheduled to take place across the Middle East between November 2015 and March 2016 was held in Bahrain as part of the prestigious FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) final.
An impressive grid of 15 drivers from 8 different nationalities opened the season with a mix of seasoned veterans, emerging talent and two championship debutants all taking to the track under the night sky and bright lights of Sakhir for the first of two 12-lap races over the weekend.
Right from the opening lap it was a new breed of youngsters who shone brightest and took the task fearlessly. Over the first lap Schmidt, Frijns and Cullen all seized control of the race having navigating the treacherous first corner before opening up a small gap on the chasing pack.
After losing the lead from pole Charlie Frijns also lost the early promise of qualifying and his night ended early on lap two. In a fight for the lead behind Schmidt the Qatar-based driver misjudged his breaking into turn eleven before locking up and turning away from a possible collision to retire.
Frijns error was the only incident of the entire race and allowed Schmidt to race trouble free and build a gap over the remaining ten laps. The most intriguing battle on the track was for second place and saw Cullen hold off a charging Saeed Al Mehairi who started in fifth and eventually finished third.
Third placed Saeed Al Mehairi of Skydive Dubai Falcons said: "That was ok considering where I started. I'd a good fight with Ashkanani to get into fourth which then became third when Frijns spun out. I'd perhaps two or three attempts to pass Cullen but I didn't want to risk it especially so early in the championship. In the second race of the weekend I start from second place so I'm really looking forward to that.
Fourth placed Skydive Dubai Falcons teammate Al Maktoum added: "I wasn't really at my best in qualifying but I enjoyed the race. To rise up from eighth to fourth is a great result and is important for the team. On the back of today I'm now a lot more confident going into the next race."
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2015 and March 2016.