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Team Bahrain finish on the podium in opening race of Round 3 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East

Team Bahrain finish on the podium in opening race of Round 3 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East 

Ireland’s Ryan Cullen has swept to an emphatic victory in the opening race of the third round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 8 and opened up a lead at the front of the drivers’ championship.

Behind Cullen, surprise package Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair continued his impressive debut in the series with an assured race in second place, the best finish of his young career. Third position and final step of the podium went to Saudi’s experienced driver Bandar Alesayi, who like Al Zubair achieved the highest finish of his season.

Team Bahrain’s Isa. S. Al Khalifa and Sweden’s Christoffer Bergström were the grateful benefactors of mistakes at the front of the race, with Al Khalifa finishing a career high fifth to win the bronze category, a feat that the young rookie driver was ecstatic to achieve.

After the race, Isa S. Al Khalifa said: “My start to the race today was not great, I couldn’t climb any positions but fortunately didn’t lose any either. I seemed to have a few problems with the car early on, which slowed me down, but I continued to push and managed to finish in first place on the podium, which I am very happy with. Every race the order of the grid seems to change and different surprises are thrown up, it is great for each driver’s progression and means that in each race you have to be prepared for anything to happen.”

Teammate Isa A. Al Khalifa also managed to drive a very promising race, avoiding more than one accident around him along the way. Unfortunately for the teenager, a last lap mistake saw him lose control of the car and spin out, putting a slight dampener on the overall result in Race 1.

Speaking after the race Isa A. Al Khalifa said: “It was a really exciting race, I started well and from the very first corner there were already a lot of overtaking moves trying to be made. I tried to concentrate on myself, and the position I was in, I also wanted to try to avoid any collisions early on. I maintained my position but unfortunately, towards the end of the race I pushed too hard and lost control of the car, causing quite a bit of damage. This is racing so these things are always going to happen; I am just hoping we can try to get the car in good shape ahead of tomorrow.”

Refreshed and eager to prove he had lost no speed over the winter break Cullen, who started in second on the grid made the win look easy after he emerged unscathed from the opening corner to take the chequered flag by 1.998 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.  

Speaking after his third race win of the season Cullen said: “I had a good start and managed to catch Dylan (Pereira) up immediately. We had a bit of a battle going into the first corner which sent us both quite wide. I was able to stay ahead without making a collision and with Dylan being pushed wide the cars chasing managed to take the inside line which meant he dropped back quite a few places. I continued to push and built a strong gap ahead of the rest of the pack. I focused on not making any mistakes and took the win. To have won the race on old tires feels even more satisfying, I am looking forward to setting another quick qualifying time tomorrow and trying to make it two out of two wins for Round 3.”

The race was not for the faint hearted and summed up perfectly the highly unpredictable nature of Season 8. Constant position changes throughout highlighted the fine line between glory and disappointment in this ultra-competitive one-make series.

Only Cullen, Al Zubair and Alesayi enjoyed clean drives while every other driver was forced into battle over the slightly shortened International Circuit reduced to 4.29 km at the Dubai Autodrome. 

Just outside the podium fourth placed driver Pereira experienced every emotion possible during the high speed 14-lap race. After securing his first pole, the man from Luxemburg could only complete the opening lap down in sixth place. But Pereira who is known for his assertive style was not afraid of the midfield battle. He impressed by forcing his way back through the field to advance two positions by overtaking Qatar’s Charlie Frijns and Tom Oliphant on consecutive laps.    

As the race progressed Oliphant looked like he had done enough to finish fifth by keeping a charging Charlie Frijns behind him. But on the final lap everything changed as Frijns bid to overtake Oliphant resulted in both drivers failing to finish. 

Round 3 racing continues this weekend and fans can experience the live action for Race 2 at 3.40pm on Saturday 28th at Dubai Autodrome.

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East represents the most professional series of its kind in the region and offers a proven pathway to world-class international motorsport. Season 8 features an international grid of 16 drivers representing 12 different nationalities covering every level of competition from professionals, amateurs and rookie drivers. International drivers hail from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Luxenberg, Sweden and Turkey with the best local drivers representing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

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17Nov

Round 1

Bahrain International Circuit

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16Apr

Bahrain International Circuit

Winner: Ryan Cullen

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