Schmid makes it two out of two as Al Maktoum finishes fourth in Race 2 of Round 1 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East

Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid secured his second win of the weekend to ensure a 100% winning record in Season 6 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as Round 1 at Bahrain International Circuit came to an end. Following on from his second place finish in Race 1, SkyDive Dubai Falcons’ Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum showed he will be a force to be reckoned with in the new series after a strong drive in which he maintained his fourth place in qualification throughout the race.

After the excitement of Race 1, Race 2 was a more controlled affair with Schmid, Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani, Charlie Frijns and Al Maktoum all finishing as they started. The star of the show was Ahmad Al Harthy who worked his way up from fourteenth to finish sixth and secure vital team points for Al Nabooda Racing. With SkyDive Dubai also adding more points the Season 6 team battle is set to be the closest yet with the newly formed BuZaid/BuCharlie team of Ashkanani and Frijns extending their lead at the top.  The next instalment of the absorbing series will take place in Dubai in December with four more rounds of regional racing to take place after that.

After leading from start to finish Clemens Schmid was delighted with a weekend in which he took the maximum points from both races: “Obviously I very happy – it’s been a great weekend. I had a good start and was able to keep Zaid behind as we got to turn one and from them it was a matter of concentration to the end. In the final laps the track was really slippery so I had a couple of scares but nothing too serious and we move forward to the home round in Dubai with a lot of confidence and some extra points in the bag.”

As the lights went out at BIC the cars bolted into action with Ahmad Al Harthy, starting from 14th following a 5 place penalty incurred from Race 1, powering up to 8th position within the first few corners. Keen to make amends after receiving the punishment from race stewards late last night, the Omani looked determined but controlled as he fought to close the gap on the race leaders.

It was a case of “as you were” for the top three with Clemens Schmid defending his pole position from qualifying through the opening laps; Zaid Ashkanani hot on his heels and Charlie Frijns and Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum not far behind. As the race went on the action was in the middle of the pack where KSA’s Bandar Aleyasi squeezed past SkyDive Dubai’s Saeed Al Mehairi to take fifth place and Ahmad Al Harthy continued his impressive run to pass Wolfgang Triller into seventh. From there the Omani driver had his sights set on Al Mehairi and piled the pressure on the Emirati driver.

Speaking after Race 2 in which he finished fourth following a second place in Race 1, Al Mehairi’s Emirati counterpart Al Maktoum said: “It’s been a very enjoyable weekend that is for sure. For me the race was not as eventful as yesterday but there is always variety in motor racing so it is important to perform well and adapt to the racing conditions. I kept my focus throughout and secured a lot of points for myself and the team this weekend so we’re happy and are looking forward to Dubai already.”

Showing real class in the opening and middle of stages of the battle were Team Bahrain who worked their way up the field after a disappointing showing in qualifying. Mohammed Mattar picked his moment perfectly to pass KSA’s Mohammed Jawa while Mattar’s Bahraini teammate Raed Raffi pushed up to eighth at the expense of Triller. It wasn’t long before Mattar edged up into ninth behind Raffi where the pair finished the race.

As the final laps approached the drivers all struggled to find grip as their tyres wore down. The big winner of the latter stages was Ahmad Al Harthy who saw an opportunity to pass Saeed Al Mehairi into sixth finishing off a remarkable performance after the disappointment of Race 1.

The race came to an end with Zaid Ashkanani reacting strongly to Charlie Frijns’ assault on his position. Despite a powerful finish the young Kuwaiti where he extended his second place lead on Frijns, Ashkanani was unable to close the gap on race leader Clemens Schmid who led from start to finish.

Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, the unique one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2014 and April 2015. Six intensely competitive race round weekends will be staged at the region’s leading circuits with two rounds in Bahrain, two in the United Arab Emirates and two in Qatar over a six month period.

The championship will finish in style returning to Sakir for the final round of the series. As a fitting finale to the season whilst providing local drivers with a chance of a lifetime the sixth season is expected to form part of the official race weekend schedule to support the 2015 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix in April 2015.   

Created to encourage Arab talent and offer a platform into the world of international GT and sports car racing, the one-make GT series has already proved vastly popular amongst local drivers. The championship is based on the highly successful Porsche formula for one-make series racing the challenge gives every driver an equal chance to compete, racing in identically constructed Porsche GT3 Cup cars.

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