Mattar claims 3rd on home soil in Round 11 at Bahrain International Circuit in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Team Bahrain’s Mohammed Mattar claimed his second podium of the season in Round 11 on home soil in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Bahrain International Circuit.
Mattar’s stunning third place, thanks to a bold overtaking move on the last lap, means he has closed the gap on Silver Michelin category leader Faisal Binladen by two points with one race to go.
After starting third on the 15-car grid in Round 11, Mattar lost his position on the first corner on the opening lap to Al-Azhari. The UAE-based driver maintained his place, despite being under immense pressure from the young Bahraini. The fight continued until the final lap, when Mattar made the most of a mistake by Al-Azhari to take the final podium position in a race won by championship leader Al Nabooda Racings Clemens Schmid.
After his finishing 3rd in the race, a repeat of his best result of the season in Round 8, local hero Mohammed Mattar said: “After a really good qualifying I’d an awful start and fell back to 5th position. But I got up to 4th again during the opening laps and started to push hard. Karim (Al-Azhari) used all his experience to stop me from passing lap after lap but I managed to finally overtake on the last lap. It’s a great feeling especially on my home circuit. In the silver category I’m still second but I’ve reduced the gap to only 12 points on Faisal BinLaden and I’ll be trying to do even better tomorrow.”
In the second Team Bahrain car, Mattar’s team mate for the weekend, Hamad Al Khalifa was very competitive in his season debut. Speaking after the race Al Khalifa said: “There were some nerves on the starting but after the first few laps I settled into my rhythm and managed to fight through the field. I was pleased with how I performed considering the little time I had in the car. Hopefully I can improve further tomorrow.”
The victory for Schmid, his seventh in a row means he will be crowned champion if he simply finishes above Abdulaziz in the final race of the season or within the top eight.
Speaking after securing his ninth victory of the season, Schmid said: “It is a perfect result for me and the team. I have extended my lead over Abdulaziz and have to produce the same tomorrow to win the championship. It was a tough start to the race, but it gradually got easier as I created a gap between myself and Abdulaziz.
The title head-to-head began with both challengers starting first and second on the grid, with Mattar in third position as he looked to pile the pressure on Faisal Binladen in the Silver Michelin category.
Reigning champion, Abdulaziz AlFaisal, said after his second place finish: “I am focused to move on from this and push really hard in Round 12 to hold on to the title. I survived a tight first corner but Schmid gradually created a huge gap which I could not close. There was some dirt on the track, which took me three laps to clean off the tyres, but by then it was too late.”
AlFaisal’s team-mate Binladen finished in fifth place, while Netherlands Charlie Frijns fashioned a stunning race to complete the top six, his highest position of the season after he saw off the challenge of Italian Antonio Giancola.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship standings after Round 11 are: 1st Clemens Schmid (253 points), 2nd Abdulaziz AlFaisal (241 points), 3rd Karim Al-Azhari (199 points), 4th Faisal BinLaden (178 points), 5th Mohammed Mattar (167 points), 6th Ashkanani (152 points).
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Team Standings after Round 11 are: 1st Al Nabooda (452 points) 2nd Saudi Falcons (419 points), 3rd Team Bahrain (345 points).