Sensational Schmidt secures Team Championship title for Al Nabooda Racing on home soil with one round still to go in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
All eyes were on local outfit Al Nabooda Racing Team and their prolific racing prodigy Jeffrey Schmidt ahead of the penultimate round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East on Friday. Local motorsport fans turned up at Dubai Autodrome in their hundreds to witness the prospect of silverware for the home team across the two action-packed races of Round 5.
The title was Al Nabooda Racing's after a nail-biting Race 2 in the closing hours of sunshine in Dubai. Despite an early scare from Ireland's Ryan Cullen, who was back on the grid after spectacularly spinning out in pursuit of this season's runaway leader in Race 1 earlier in the day, there was no stopping Schmidt who managed to reclaim the lead after being overtaken from pole position within the first lap. Teammate Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait was unable to build on the morning's promising podium finish and ended Race 2 in fourth place, still enough to clinch the title for his team.
Season 7 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East marked the 10th anniversary for Al Nabooda Racing Team. Thanks to the consistently brilliant driving from the dynamic duo of Schmidt and Ashkanani throughout the campaign, the Dubai based team could celebrate winning the Team Championship with one round still to go – an incredible feat to cap a near untouchable season for Al Nabooda Racing that was only ever challenged by the newly formed AlFaisal Racing Team.
Speaking after winning his second race of the day at the Dubai Autodrome, and getting his hands on the coveted Team Championship in front of friends, family and local supporters, Jeffrey Schmidt said:
"I feel so much better this time out at Dubai Autodrome, last round it was a big shame, we only had one victory on home soil so we had to fix it this weekend and I managed two victories here for Al Nabooda so it has been the perfect weekend. We have now won the Team championship which feels amazing with 2 races to go and in my first year racing with Al Nabooda. I have a nice lead now in the overall driver's standings with Ryan exiting the race in Race 1, so it is looking really good for me ahead of the finale in Bahrain, we have secured our Team goal now I need to secure my individual goal!"
For Zaid Ashkanani, who joined Al Nabooda Racing this season, it was a great experience to finally lift the trophy with his team:
"Although it was not the perfect race for me, the points that the team have gathered over the weekend now means that we have won the Team Championship, I am very pleased about this and it is a great achievement for myself and the team. I will now look forward to the last two races of the season."
Race 2 of Round 5 in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was another nail-biting affair featuring the usual suspects, and with the drivers battling for positions early on you could sense the tension in and around the Dubai Autodrome's incredible 4.29KM track.
For Cullen it was an almighty comeback after the crash in Race 1, while Abdulaziz AlFaisal could celebrate a strong overall performance with his second podium finish in quick succession. Despite Ashkanani missing out on the podium over the 14 intense laps, the young Kuwaiti star is still well-placed for a top-three overall finish in the driver's standings as the unique one-make series heads to Bahrain for the crucial and conclusive last round.
With the Team Championship already settled, Al Nabooda Racing will be looking to clinch their second trophy this season with Jeffrey Schmidt almost certain to win the driver's title. There is, however, plenty of excitement in the fight for the other podium spots as everything is set for a hugely entertaining finale in Bahrain.
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series consists of 12 races between November 2015 and March 2016. Season 7 concludes at the illustrious Bahrain International Circuit between 4th and 5th March.