Kuwait’s Ashkanani fastest in practice and signs up new teammate as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East races into Qatar
Race day in Qatar is fast approaching with Kuwaiti teenage sensation Zaid Ashkanani showing he could be a Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title contender after posting the fastest lap in practice at the Losail International Circuit. The youngster also welcomed a new member to his team with the region’s first female racing driver, Christina Nielsen, joining Buzaid GT ahead of the two race weekend on the 17th and 18th January 2014.
For Ashkanani, a busy winter of practice paid off as the teenager was fastest in the early practice sessions in Doha. The results show a continuation of the form which saw him secure his first pole position and victory in the series, taking the chequered flag in Race 2 of the first Dubai round last month. With the fastest early practice lap of 2:01.086, Ashkanani’s pace put him ahead of championship leader Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda who was closely followed by Abdulaziz AlFaisal of the Saudi Falcons and Schmid’s team mate Karim Al Azhari.
Speaking after the practice session Ashkanani said he has been taking every opportunity to gain experience in the winter break: “I was really happy with my pace today but I know we have to stay consistent through qualifying and then the races if we’re going to secure any silverware. Over the past few weeks I’ve been across Europe and to the UK to try and get as much time as possible in racing cars. From Formula Ford to simulators, I’ve committed a lot of time to really perfecting my technique, so getting the fastest lap today was pretty rewarding.”
Currently sitting third in the overall championship Ashkanani will need to be at the top of his game to secure maximum points as he works the cut the lead of his rival and current leader, Clemens Schmid. Now a new addition to the team will mean the Kuwaiti youngster will also be able to battle in the team category.
Newly announced ahead of the race weekend, it has been revealed that Christina Nielsen of Denmark will be joining Ashkanani at Buzaid GT as of the Qatar round. The pair have been solo competitors up until now but hope their combined efforts will make them competitive in the team standings. Firmly established as one of the most talented drivers in the region Christina Nielsen is now half way through her second season in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East where she remains the first female racing driver in the region.
Speaking after the announcement that she would join Buzaid GT Nielsen said, “It’s great news for all of us and I’m excited about competing together. Zaid’s a top driver, he’s been kind enough to help me with racing lines and technique in the past and us partnering up is a really positive step. With a few good results we have the potential to mount a good challenge on the team standings and we’ll be working hard to make it happen.”
The newly bolstered Buzaid GT will be managed by Zaid Ashkanani’s father Abdulmajeed who says he’s looking forward to his new team’s first race, “It’s a new step for us and growth is what we want to see. Christina is a great driver and was an obvious target to partner up with Zaid. With the two of them now competing together I think we move forward with confidence and excitement.”
Round 3 gets under way with qualifying at 18h00 with the grid assembled at 20h35 for Race 1. Porsche motorsport enthusiasts can come along to watch the action for free at the Losail International Circuit.
Overall championship standings after Round 2
Al Nabooda Racing
Hasher Al Maktoum
Skydive Dubai Falcons
Al Nabooda Racing