Second place finish in Qatar Race 1 moves Kuwait’s Ashkanani up the championship table in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Kuwaiti teenage sensation Zaid Ashkanani stormed to a second position finish in Race 1 of Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East under the lights, at Losail International Circuit and just behind championship leader Clemens Schmid.
Building on his maiden victory in the previous round in Dubai, the Kuwaiti youngster moved up from third on the starting grid to second in the early laps, before dropping down the pack under pressure from Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons. However, after an off-season spent in Europe refining his skills, the more confident Ashkanani waited for the perfect opportunity to shift up to second in the race and also the championship as the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car made it’s Qatar debut. Despite a clear improvement in the quality of his driving which started with victory, Ashkanani was not quite quick enough to make up the gap on Al Nabooda’s Clemens Schmid who extends his lead at the top of the table.
Speaking after his podium finish Ashkanani said; “I really enjoyed the race and I’m thrilled with the result. Top three is my aim and after starting third I finished second so that’s progress. It was so tight between the guys at the front and I am happy to finish on the podium. To move up to second in the championship is fantastic news so I take a lot of confidence from that and I can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow.”
The Qatar race weekend was the first time Zaid Ashakanani competed with his team mate Christina Nielsen who announced her joining of Buzaid GT yesterday. For the Danish driver, the first female racing driver in the Middle East, Race 1 was not all she had hoped for. Slowed down by a driver spinning in front of her before nearly being forced off the track in a tight tussle, Nielsen finished 11th out of 17.
Speaking after Race 1 Nielsen said, “I felt really unlucky in the race today. I didn’t have a great start but as it went on I picked up the pace and began closing on the guys in front. There were a few incidents where I had to brake and ended up losing time but that’s racing and I have to hope that my bad luck is now over and tomorrow is my day.”
In an action packed race Al Nabooda’s Clemens Schmid showed his champion qualities starting recovering from a poor start to take the chequred flag. In first appearance in the series and starting second on the grid Jeffrey Schmidt, driving in place of Faisal Binladen of the Saudi Falcons, produced a stunning start and overtook Schmid on the first corner. But his lead did not last long as Schmid regained his advantage allowing him to control the pace of the race and take the chequered flag largely unthreatened.
Fresh from his victory in Dubai and starting third on the grid, Ashkanani showed his pedigree as a future series champion by overtaking Jeffrey Schmidt in lap five and, just as in Dubai, keeping his composure to see off the challenge of AlFaisal and claim his third runner-up spot of the fifth season.
For AlFaisal it was another notable display after starting fourth on the grid and claiming his second podium of the season further cementing his position in the top three of the championship standings.
With Schmid marching to another triumph, the battle to complete the top six was just as absorbing. With Schmidt leading the race in the first lap, he fell back into midfield battle with Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al Azhari while Skydive Dubai Falcons Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum continued his impressive run of finishing in the top six of every race.
Schmidt and Al Azhari were neck and neck from lap six with neither driver giving an inch. On the final lap, both drivers interchanged positions before Al Azhari edged the Swiss driver on the line into fourth and claim valuable team title points with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum coming into sixth. His teammate Saeed Al Mehairi aided his team’s conquest for the team honours by coming seventh.