UAE teams battle hard in wet conditions as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Round 3 in Qatar comes to a close
Al Nabooda driver Clemens Schmid had to settle for third in a rain hit Race 2 of Round 3 of the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, as stand-in driver Jeffrey Schmidt helped the Saudi Falcons to an impressive victory with Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani second.
For Skydive Dubai Falcons the weekend represented another learning curve as the team drove the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in the wet for the first time. Building on their qualifying times Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum and Saeed Al Mehairi battled in the middle of the pack to finish 10th and 8th respectively.
After a day of light rain the drivers battled with slippery conditions at Losail, which saw many spin out of practice and qualifying including overall drivers’ championship leader Clemens Schmid. The race began with a rolling start brought on by the conditions which improved considerably as the main event approached.
After recovering in qualifying, defending champion Clemens Schmid started from second position only to lose two places in the opening laps. A rare mistake was to blame for the Austrian dropping down but his fighting qualities saw the championship leader bounce back to take third after an error from Abdulaziz AlFaisal.
With two podium finishes, Schmid can be satisfied with a successful weekend which saw him stretch his lead at the top of drivers’ standings to 27 points over the in-form Ashkanani.
Following the race, Schmid said: “It was a very tough race with wet and windy conditions but it was a challenge we had to accept and I am happy with the result. Jeffrey was very fast today and I needed to keep my composure to claim a podium position. I made an error early on and moved to fourth but then Abdulaziz made a mistake which allowed me to claim third place.”
After a solid race the day before, Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum was looking to build on his recent run of form but the Emirati driver started and finished tenth despite moving up the grid in the middle stages. The result means Sheikh Hasher drops down to fourth in the driver’s championship behind Schmid, Ashkanani and third placed Abdulaziz AlFaisal.
Speaking after the race Sheikh Hasher said, “I wasn’t very fortunate in qualifying and today’s race didn’t go as well as the day before but this is only Round 3 of our first season in the series so we’re learning. It was our first time with the car in wet conditions so I’m not too disappointed. We’ve learned a lot about the track and the car in the last few days and I’m looking forward to getting back to Doha in the next few weeks.”
Starting fourth on the grid, Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani once again produced a mature performance to overtake Team Bahrain’s Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa and Clemens Schmid in the early stages of the race to continue his impressive form of getting on the podium in each race barring Race 1 of the Dubai round. The impressive teenager also moved to second the championship standings, 27-points behind overall leader Schmid.
With an absorbing battle for places on the podium, the race to complete the top six was just as captivating with positions interchanging regularly. Starting third on the grid, Salman Al Khalifa of Team Bahrain fell down the field in the first lap and after a mid-grid battle was unable to complete the race, withdrawing in lap ten.
Saudi’s Fahad Algosaibi kept hold of his position throughout the race despite constant pressure from Christina Nielsen and Karim Al-Azhari to claim fifth position. The fight for the final spot was absorbing with Nielsen keeping hold of the position for the majority of the race before the veteran Al Nabooda Racing driver Al-Azhari showed there was no substitute for experience to take sixth position and claim the points for his team.
The series returns to the Losail International Circuit for Round 4 on 31st January and 1st February 2014.