Sensational Ashkanani wins in Dubai to take Kuwaiti top of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East with just one round remaining
Kuwaiti teenage sensation Zaid Ashkanani produced a faultless display to lead from start to finish of Race 2 of Round 5 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as he powered his way to the top of the drivers’ championship.
Leading Race 2 of Round 5 at the Dubai Autodrome from pole to chequered flag the revelation of the 2013/2014 season looked safe in front despite being pushed all the way by Fahad Algosaibi of Saudi Arabia. The young Kuwaiti had an excellent start on the clean side of track which helped him on his way to victory, and to the top of the drivers’ standings, ahead of defending champion Clemens Schmid. Ashkanani’s Al Nabooda rival Schmid’s involvement in a Race 1 collision saw him banned from Race 2 which allowed his competitors, especially the Kuwaiti, to move up in the championship.
Speaking after the race Ashkanani said, “I could not be happier right now. It was such a difficult race as I had Fahad tight behind me the whole time. It was really tense as he was putting me under a lot of pressure and I just couldn’t open up a gap. Thankfully I managed to hold on and take the win which I feel is one of my best ever.”
He added, “Moving up to the top of the table is amazing and it sets up an incredible season finale in Bahrain next month. We will start our preparations for it soon but I think tonight we’ll just enjoy this victory.”
The drama behind Ashkanani was mainly restricted to the opening laps with Saudi Falcons’ Abdulaziz AlFaisal jumping up a position from 4th to 3rd while Salman Bin Rashid Al Khalifa dropped down to finish 6th. Producing one of the drives of the weekend was Skydive Dubai Falcons’ Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum who was pushed on by the cheers from his home crowds. Starting 9th on the grid the Emirati driver had shot up to 4th by the lap 3 and proceeded to pile the pressure on AlFaisal who was forced into giving up his spot, eventually finishing where he had started in 4th.
Al Maktoum’s team mate Saeed Al Mehairi also made the best of a few errors making his way past Al Khalifa and Christina Nielsen to finish 5th while Al Nabooda’s Karim Al Azhari was unable to hold on to his 5th place qualification and ended the race in 7th just ahead of Faisal Binladen of the Saudi Falcons.
The Dubai round was always going to be one of the most exciting of the season but no one could have predicted just how close weekend would become after defending champion Clemens Schmid failed to take any points from the weekend.
After his Race 2 win, Zaid Ashkanani has leapfrogged Clemens Schmid into first in the drivers’ championship and opened up a 3 point gap over his Al Nabooda rival; Ashkanani on 199. Schmid’s lack of points from the weekend has also allowed two-time former champion Abdulaziz AlFaisal to draw level on 196.
Back to back podiums from the Skydive Dubai Falcons duo of Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum and Saeed Al Mehairi sees them secure the 4th and 5th positions in the drivers’ championship respectively with Al Mehairi moving above Al Nabooda’s Karim Al Azhari who is now 6th.
With one round to go the thrilling Dubai weekend results mean the championship title cannot be decided until the final race of the series - Round 6, Race 2 - with 25 points available for first place in Race 1 and 25 points available in Race 2. Second place in each race will pick up 23 points, third place 21 points and fourth place 19 points.
It’s a case of as-you-were in the team standings with Al Nabooda Racing staying on top but losing ground to the Saudi Falcons who have cut the gap from 49 points to 21. Third place Skydive Dubai Falcons have also reduced the distance between them and second place from 16 to 10.
The Dubai weekend results have set up the most grand of finales with the region’s most professional racing series set to come to a thrilling climax at the Bahrain International Circuit for Round 6 on the 7th and 8th of March.
Overall championship standings after Race 1 Round 5 – Top 6
Al Nabooda Racing
Hasher Al Maktoum
Skydive Dubai Falcons
Overall Team Title standings after Race 1 Round 5 – Top 3
Al Nabooda Racing
Skydive Dubai Falcons