Ashkanani targets silverware next season after successful first year in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani secured third in the Silver Michelin Category of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East recently following one of the most exciting races in the history of the series at the Bahrain International Circuit.
For Ashkanani it was a fitting finale to the 2012-13 championship. On his debut season in professional racing, the young star performed admirably throughout 12 action-packed races across six weekends on five of the region’s leading circuits between November 2012 and March 2013.
Created to inspire a new generation of Arab racing drivers and offer a platform into the world of international GT and sports car racing, the one-make series has already proved vastly popular amongst leading drivers such as Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al Faisal who regards the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as the best run championship in the region.
The fourth season of the Porsche GT3 challenge continued to produce fierce rivalries throughout the grid and truly unpredictable results. Since all drivers compete in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, the bestselling sports car in the world, the difference between winning and losing once again came down to driver skill. With a level playing field for all drivers the feat of debutant Ashkanani is even more impressive.
Over the 12 rounds it was Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid who proved most skilful and unstoppable in earning his first championship win by managing to overcome the challenge of defending champion Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons.
The youngest driver on the circuit, Ashkanani gained praise for his outstanding results to finish sixth in the overall championship standings and third in the Silver Michelin Category, 28 points behind eventual silver winner Saudi Falcons Faisal Binladen. His season highlight came with a third place finish at the home of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand during Round 3 at Yas Marina Circuit.
Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said: “Zaid Ashkanani has been a revelation and a breath of fresh air. In his first year of professional racing, he has produced very encouraging results for one so young and inexperienced.
“From the first to the last round he has represented Kuwait with pride and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Zaid had to quickly get used to the incredible power and precision of a Porsche but he proved how talented he is. If he can take the lessons of the season on board, continue to work hard and dedicate himself to the sport then he has a bright future.” added Lechner.
A season long battle including Ashkanani and three other young contenders, Saudi Falcons Binladen, Team Bahrain’s Mohammed Mattar and the first female to race in the championship, Christina Nielsen, challenged for top spot in the Silver Michelin category.
The most experienced driver from the quartet, Faisal Binladen, recovered from a slow start to claim a second and third place finish in Rounds 7 and 8 on home soil to take control and eventually win the category having displaced Ashkanani from top-spot.
Ashkanani is hoping to build on his performances and experience next season. Looking ahead he said: “I have just lived my dream. Having the opportunity to drive on world famous circuits in a Porsche GT3 is unbelievable. I had no idea what to expect but I soon got comfortable behind the wheel and managed to be contend for the Silver Michelin category.
“Overall I’m happy but I want more. I’ve finished sixth overall, but next season the aim is to be in the top three. For any young driver in the Middle East with the ambition to be a world-class racing driver this is the only professional series of its kind in the region. I know it is helping my career and I can’t wait for the 5th season”, added Ashkanani.