Sensational Schmidt wins driver’s championship for Al Nabooda Racing in Season 7 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Jeffrey Schmidt the star of the series and Al Nabooda Racing has won the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 7 courtesy of a fourth place finish in the final race of the season.
After dominating the season the deserved victory in the championship capped a wonderful weekend of racing for UAE team Al Nabooda Racing at the Bahrain International Circuit. Zaid Ashkanani joined teammate Schmidt on the podium as he finished the series second in the driver's standings with Ireland's Ryan Cullen third at the end of a pulsating season.
The final race was eventually won by Ryan Cullen of Ireland, who was closely followed over the line by Saudi Arabia's experienced racer Abdulaziz AlFaisal in second and Qatar-based emerging star Charlie Frijns in third.
The absence of Schmidt from the final race podium did not spoil the scenes of celebrations at the chequered flag for Al Nabooda Racing as they added the individual title to the team honours won in Dubai during Round 5. The hard work had been done.
Speaking as champion of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 7, Jeffrey Schmidt said: "It's always a great feeling when you win a championship. It has felt like a long winter, 12 races over the last 4 months and throughout the season the competition has got tougher and tougher. The weekend here in Bahrain wasn't exactly the weekend I had planned, finishing 2nd in the first race and 4th in the second race, but I always knew it was going to be hard as every driver was really pushing for their best result of the season. It was important for me to finish the race today, I needed just a single point to take the championship title so didn't want to push too hard and risk any silly mistakes.
"I had a strong start to the season and took a good lead early on which allowed me to have the luxury of not having to win here today to take the championship title, It's always nice to come first but the overall goal was more important. The season objectives for me was to help Al Nabooda Racing to take the team title and for me to take the drivers title, both of these objectives were achieved so I am very happy."
Thanks to nine magnificent wins across the twelve race season Schmidt entered the final race of the leading and only professional racing series of its kind in the Middle East safe in the knowledge that he simply needed to finish the race to be crowned champion. The outstanding talent duly delivered with a mature performance. But there were clearly signs of a few nerves across the grid during what was arguably the best race of the season.
The final race once again proved just how competitive the Porsche GT3 Middle East Cup Challenge has become with every point hard earned between the best drivers in the region. Right from the opening lap Schmidt's rivals showed it would be no easy ride for the leader who wisely opted to avoid any potential pitfalls rather than race for glory. On new tires Ryan Cullen sprinted into an early lead on the opening corner, building a lead over twelve laps to win by a sizeable 3.4 seconds.
Just like Cullen ahead of him AlFaisal took advantage of the cautious Al Nabooda Racing duo, catapulting himself into second position on the second lap and staying there until the finish line. The final podium spot was filled by Doha-resident Charlie Frijns who seized his third place following a mistake by Schmidt who out-breaked himself on lap six. Elsewhere a charging Ashkanani perhaps pushed too hard in his effort to win the final race and put more pressure on teammate Schmidt. The Kuwaiti former champion made several uncharacteristic mistakes to fall down the field. Having started second on the grid he could only manage seventh in his final outing of the season. Yet a smile soon returned as Ashkanani was consoled by securing second in the driver's standings for the second successive year.
Speaking after clinching second place in the overall driver's standings Ashkanani said: "I didn't have a bad start to the race today, but I struggled on the used tires to get the power in the opening lap. On turn one I locked the wheels which saw me drop all the way back to 7th position. From there with the flat point on the tire, it was very difficult to control the car and get any real control and power. I continued to push and maintain my position but knew I wasn't going to be able to catch the front of the pack.
"The season has been great for me and driving for a team like Al Nabooda Racing and having a team mate like Jeffery has been a real learning curve from me and the pressure from Jeffery has helped me develop my own driving. I have enjoyed the season and can look back on some great performances and feel proud to be a part of the winning team."
Regarded as the purest form of racing, every lap and every corner of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East counts. Qualifying is split by hundredths of seconds and racing is pushed to the limits with driver talent and race craft the difference between winning and losing as all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups.