AlFaisal powers his way to the top with two victories at Yas Marina Circuit
Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons Racing team produced a champion's performance over the weekend with two victories in Rounds 3 and 4 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Yas Marina Circuit.
His commanding performances in both rounds propelled the reigning champion to the top of the drivers' championship and establishing lead of 12 points over second-placed Karim Al-Azhari and 16 points over Clemens Schmid in third place, both of Al Nabooda Racing.
The most competitive field in the series history, spanning eleven nations, delivered two captivating races on the iconic Abu Dhabi circuit. A number of head to head battles ensued throughout the field. Yas Marina also saw two debut appearances on the podium for stars of the future, Kuwait's Zaid Ashkanani and Qatar's Abdul Rahman Al Thani .
After seeing the reigning champion record his first victories in the fourth season, Walter Lechner, Manager Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said: "Credit to all the drivers for an excellent weekend of racing on the demanding Yas Marina Circuit. They have proven once again just how exciting the Porsche formula of one-making racing is."
"We had great battles throughout the field, with two drivers recording their first podium positions in the series. The championship and team title tables are very tight, so we have all the components for another exciting two days at the Dubai Autodrome this week, "added Lechner.
The weekend started with Al-Azhari claiming pole position for Round 3 with a fastest lap of 55.714 seconds, narrowly edging out AlFaisal, who came in at 55.722 seconds.
But he lost his lead in the opening laps as AlFaisal muscled past the home favourite on the tight circuit. Once in the lead, AlFaisal was hotly pursued by a charging Clemens Schmid, the current championship leader, but the race ended in disappointment for the young Austrian. Having overtaken his Al Nabooda team mate Al-Azhari, Schmid managed to pass AlFaisal briefly before being forced to retire on lap 20 when a gearbox linkage failed.
With clear track ahead and behind, AlFaisal comfortably extended his lead and set the quickest lap-time of the round, 55.856 seconds, in the process. He finished 7.955 seconds over second placed Al-Azhari and moved into the lead on the overall championship standings.
Kuwait's eighteen- year old, Zaid Ashkanani, replicated his stunning driving in the opening rounds in Bahrain by securing his first podium in the championship finishing in third place. The rest of the top six was covered by Bahrain's Mohammed Mattar, who took the chequered flag ahead of team-mate Raed Raffii in fifth, with Saudi Falcon's Faisal Binladen coming in sixth position.
AlFaisal started where he left off in Round 3, with yet another calm and authoritative drive, after securing pole position ahead of the Al Nabooda duo for Round 4.
In an enthralling encounter and boosted by his earlier victory, AlFaisal dominated from start to finish maintaining first position throughout. He was never seriously threatened and managed to secure the quickest overall race lap.
Despite the straightforward win for the Saudi Falcons driver, the real battle was to fill second and third place on the podium. After retiring early during Round 3, Dubai-based Schmid found himself fighting through the midfield after spinning on the exit of the corkscrew early in the race and falling back to sixth. The Austrian then showed all his skill, courage and true grit to claim a spectacular second place as he raced through the field.
On his full season debut, Qatar's Al Thani realised some of his immense potential winning a head-to-head duel with UAE's Al-Azhari that lasted until the final lap.
Al Nabooda's Al-Azhari, who started fourth on the grid, finished fourth after a spirited drive holding off the best efforts of rookie Zaid Ashkanani. The Kuwaiti teenager added more valuable points to his season's total with a fifth placed finish, ahead of Bahrain's Mohammed Mattar in sixth position.
Following his commanding display, a thrilled AlFaisal said: "It was easier than the first race but still not without any pressure. Being on pole made a difference and from there I was able to pull out a gap. Clemen's made a mistake and I didn't see him after that; however at no stage I was able to relax a bit. I'm really pleased to have posted the quickest time in the race and it was even quicker than during qualifying. It shows everything was working perfectly.
"Between now and Dubai next week I'll take a step back, enjoy the weather and return fresh for the challenge this week. I have a lot of experience on Dubai's Autodrome but I know I'll need to be at my best to secure more victories and extend my overall lead," he added.
The series moves next to Dubai, with the Dubai Autodrome hosting Rounds 5 and 6 on the 13th and 14th of December 2012.