Ashkanani victorious in opening race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 9

Ashkanani victorious in opening race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 9

Delivering a flawless drive from pole to chequered flag, Kuwaiti driver Zaid Ashkanani took the opening win of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 9 and the first victory ever in a new generation GT3 Cup car in the region.

Under the lights at Bahrain International Circuit, Ashkanani returned to the championship he won back in 2014 to be troubled only by British driver Tom Oliphant. Clocking some quick laps, Oliphant attempted to reduce the gap Ashkanani created, but the Kuwaiti showed his fellow Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup driver some impressive defence skills to race away and take the win.   

Team Bahrain also celebrated in front of a home crowd, with Isa S. Al Khalifa securing a third-place podium spot in the Silver category and Ali Al Khalifa matching his achievement in the Bronze category. The pair were two of a total seven regional drivers in the race, who all thrived in the new GT3 Cup car to excite the local crowd. 

The first race of the new season showcased why Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is the leading motorsport series in the region, marking the start of a bright new chapter for regional racing.  

Speaking after his win, Zaid Ashkanani said: “It was the perfect return to the championship for me; qualifying in pole position and a strong start allowed me to create a good gap early on. There was a battle going on behind me for second place, so I used this to extend the lead further. Once out in front I knew that I had to concentrate on making no mistakes and getting the car across the line. Tom Oliphant managed to close the gap and put me under a bit of pressure towards the end, but I managed to keep my cool and finish with the win.” 

Placing 10th overall and 3rd in the Silver Category, Isa S. Al Khalifa of Team Bahrain said: “It wasn’t the best start in my opinion, but I ended the race well. I secured a podium place in my first race in the silver category, which is encouraging for me. It is a great feeling to see your progress and where you have moved through the different stages of the championship over the season. I want to end 2017/18 closer to the top overall, so I will keep striding towards that goal.”

After the race Walter Lechner, the owner of Lechner Racing, and founder and manager of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East said: “It’s great to get Season 9 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East underway, and what a fantastic start to the championship. The debut of the new Porsche GT3 Cup car did not disappoint and every one of the drivers pushed the car to its limit. 

“It’s always pleasing to see all cars arrive back to the garages untroubled, especially with so many close battles throughout the race. It is amazing for the championship to launch here in Bahrain as part of the WEC weekend, and to see 17 cars and drivers from so many different parts of the world is a testament to our championship. We look forward to Race 2 and hope to see more of the same action throughout the season.” 

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will consist of six race weekends with 12 races over a period of six months. Drivers will compete across the region with confirmed circuits including Dubai Autodrome, Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain International Circuit. 

Season 9 sees drivers hailing from Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden as well as returning and new local stars from the Middle East region representing Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The championship started on 17th November in Bahrain as part of the FIA World Endurance Championship weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit and comes to a thrilling conclusion by supporting official 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

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