Champion Al Zubair tops qualifying ahead of Ellinas and Ashkanani for opening race
Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair will start the defence of his title in the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East from pole position after a typically flawless performance in the first qualifying session of Season 10 at the Dubai Autodrome today.
After hearing a message from Porsche legend and former Formula 1 icon, Mark Webber, an inspired Al Zubair laid down an unbeatable time of 2:00.066 around the GP configured Circuit. Tio Ellinas of Cyprus, a newcomer to the series yet experienced campaigner, was second quickest, 0.247 seconds behind.
The international appeal of the championship was also evident on the second row of the grid. Season 6 champion, Zaid Ashkanani, starts third and J.B. Simmenauer of France, on fourth. On debut, 18 years old Michael De Quesada of the United States of America, impressed by securing fifth on the grid in his first visit to the region.
Ahead of qualifying all racers received a surprise video message from Mark Webber and clearly his words make an impact.
Speaking to celebrate the start of Season 10, Webber said: “So drivers, the fun starts now. Go buckle up! I know what it is all about. Being part of the Porsche family is very special. It’s another fantastic racing season ahead of you guys. The Middle East has some of the best racing tracks in the world. I’ve raced on a few of them so enjoy it! The sun is generally always out. And that’s where we go racing, right? So, all the best, pedal to the metal, and keep it safe.”
17 drivers representing 13 different nations are competing in the opening weekend, for the first of three races as part of an extended 16-race championship. The high-calibre grid includes two past-champions and seven debutants, as the longest running motorsport series in the Middle East continues to dominate professional racing in the region.
After qualifying pole sitter Al Zubair commented: “Qualifying was kind of hectic. To be honest, I thought I really messed up the first lap and wasn’t sure if I would be able to improve my time in the remaining laps. Luckily it all played into my hands in the end. But I know there were a few nervous moments for me and my engineers. All in all, I’m happy, it’s a good way to start the championship and now my focus turns to the first race.”
The new season gets underway at the Dubai Autodrome with Race 1 at 16h05 on Friday, 16th November. Followed by back to back races on Saturday 17th November, with Race 2 scheduled to start at 11h30 and Race 3 at 15h15. Entrance is free to all fans.
The series then moves to Bahrain International Circuit in early December, before returning to the Dubai Autodrome followed by Yas Marian Circuit, with the final decisive rounds in Bahrain. The season will conclude with an official support race to the 2019 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix in March 2019, the only regional racing series to do so.