Oman’s Al Zubair reflects on strong opening to debut season
Race for Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East shows no sign of cooling off during short winter break
After two sensational rounds of race action in season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, a short winter break is unlikely to slow the hectic pace of the most competitive season in the championship’s history.
The mouth-watering ingredients of a new and expanded grid with 16 drivers’ from 12 different countries, including Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair, has proved the perfect recipe for action-packed racing. Four races into the 12-race season and there is nothing to split the top two drivers both sitting level on 90 points each.
It’s just as close throughout the entire field. Less than five points separate the first and second places across gold, silver and bronze categories, and no podium has been the same on any of the four occasions so far. Even qualifying has proved ridiculously tight. In Dubai less than two seconds divided the first seven drivers on the grid.
For young Omani driver Al Zubair the break until Round 3 on 27th & 28th January at the Dubai Autodrome offers a chance to reflect on the opening two rounds as well as time to help prepare for his return to the track in 2017.
Looking back Al Zubair said: “The championship has been an amazing experience for me so far, and I am very pleased with the way I have started. Initially I was a bit worried about making the transition from single seaters into the Porsche GT3 Cup car as there is a big difference, however I believe I have started the championship well and can only hope to keep the momentum going.”
Despite the winter break only just starting, already drivers are setting their sights on Round 3 and a return to the Dubai Autodrome for the second of two back to back rounds on the testing UAE circuit. Especially those who are making their debut in the region’s leading series. Emerging racing stars like Al Zubair are desperate to make use of their fresh experience and will seek to secure all-important championship points and challenge for silverware.
Current leaders, Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns and Ryan Cullen of Ireland, sit joint level on points at the top of the overall drivers’ standings. Experienced UK driver, Tom Oliphant, will take comfort sitting closely behind in third place. However he will be aware that only 30 points separate him from seventh place in the standings, a great testament to how close the season is.
Al Zubair quickly made himself comfortable within the championship and now looks every bit a serious contender for silverware. Back to back podium finishes in the opening round in Bahrain gave him the confidence to launch his Porsche racing career with no fear.
Even a lack of experience at the Dubai Autodrome did nothing to slow his progress as he blew fans away with an overall third place finish in the opening race. Such pace and early momentum means Al Zubair will be a factor all season long. He goes into the winter break in fifth position in the overall championship standings, and in first place in the new Porsche GCC Rookie Championship.
He added: “There is still plenty to learn and in each race so far there has been things I can take away to work on. I am very passionate about my racing and want to achieve the best results possible. The team have been great in getting the car where it needs to be and helping me to feel comfortable out on the track. I am thrilled to be sitting at the top of the new Porsche GCC Rookie championship, especially with the other young talented drivers I am up against. I look forward to returning to the track in January and only hope for much of the same results in 2017.”
Speaking on the championship so far, owner of Lechner racing, and founder of the series, Walter Lechner, said: “We have worked very hard to get the championship in a position like this. It is great to see a full grid of 16 cars, and even better not being able to predict where the drivers will finish. The competition from the first to the very last car across the finish line is intense and we have seen over the first two rounds that everyone has a chance of winning their category. These drivers are living their dreams and gaining so much from the experience.
“The new drivers have come in and performed very well. With the addition of some of the more fearless younger drivers, each race is more and more thrilling to watch. This is what motor racing should be about, and bringing this drive, determination, and passion to the Middle East is something that I am very proud of.”
For racing fans in the UAE, the return of the spectacular Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East to the Dubai Autodrome in January will provide the perfect opportunity to follow the championship from the stands, and witness the exhilarating Porsche action first hand.
The championship will not move far for Round 4, remaining in the UAE as drivers descend on the popular Yas Marina, Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi to mark the halfway stage of the season on 10th -11th February. Bahrain will welcome the drivers back to the home of the Porsche GT3 CCME series for the remaining two rounds, with Round 5 taking place on the 10th -11th March and Round 6 taking place in April 2017 in the form of the Bahrain F1 support race.