Next generation set for testing as Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East races into action

The countdown is on for motorsport fans ahead of this weekend’s first testing session in Bahrain for Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. Showcasing the series’ unrivalled ability to identify and develop new talent, a selection of new faces prepare to line up at testing for what is widely regarded as the most competitive racing series in the region. New drivers include Al Faisal Al Zubair from Oman and Bashar Mardini from the UAE.
Since 2009 and over seven instalments the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been a proven path for regional drivers to accelerate their careers onto the biggest stages of international motorsport, through intense competition with global racing professionals. Season 8 is set to develop yet another group of talented racing drivers, seeking to further their racing careers.
Season 7 saw 22-year old Jeffrey Schmidt take the title after one of the most impressive campaign’s from a debut driver in the series. This upcoming weekend a strong line-up of experience racers and new, home-grown, future stars will come together at Bahrain International Circuit, giving fans an early sense of the competition to come. With all drivers competing in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, the one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2016 and April 2017.
Commenting on the upcoming eighth season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, founder and organiser Walter Lechner, said: “For us, this is one of the most exciting parts of the year, as we are counting down the days to the official start of a thrilling new season. We are expecting more exceptional talent to compete across Season 8 which highlights just how serious this competition is. Over the past seven years we have enjoyed incredible sportsmanship by race drivers who have gone on to be some of the region’s greatest. They learned their trade in our series and we expect it to be the same for the newcomers this season. We have some new faces and they will have to prove themselves against some more experienced racers.
“This is where the competition really heats up and you see guys upping their game race after race. By the end of the season, everyone’s standard will have improved substantially and that’s how we’ve built our reputation for developing great drivers here in the Middle East. Most importantly this all happens whilst the drivers enjoy the thrill of racing on some of the region’s finest tracks.”
Building excitement ahead of the first track action, organiser Lechner Racing has confirmed a selection of new competitors, who will be looking to benefit from the series’ ability to develop racing talent in thrilling competition.
18 year old Omani racer Al Faisal Al Zubair is set to make his debut in the series, drawing on years of experience in karting and British Formula 3. Coaching Al Zubair and also racing this season will be experienced Porsche Supercup driver Ryan Cullen, who has already been tipped as a potential champion in waiting, after an impressive debut campaign in the previous edition.
A previous guest driver in the series but set for a lengthier role in the drama of Season 8 will be UAE resident Bashar Mardini who comes to the series with over eight years of karting experience and a Suzuki Swift Cup UAE title under his belt.
Mardini and Al Zubair will be joined by Turkish racer Salih Yoluc who over the past few years has amassed top level racing experience through the Blancpain-GT-Endurance Championship, the European Le Mans Series, the British GT Championship and the 24 Hours of Dubai, where he took a class win in 2015. In 2016, he has already scored victories in the GT3 ProAm class of the International GT Open and the GT3 Le Mans Cup – victories he will be looking to build on in the coming season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
Adding international flavour to the competition in 2016 and beyond will be 26 year old British racer Tom Oliphant. Starting in karts in his teens, Oliphant competed in single seaters before entering the British GT Championship and the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup, winning the latter in 2015. The Englishman then took part in the highly competitive Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain in spring this year, where he secured a podium finish and ended the championship in overall fourth position.
The GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was created to give the region’s home-grown driving talent an opportunity to realize their racing potential while enhancing personal circuit experience. Launched in 2009, the championship is currently in its landmark eighth season and features top drivers from the region and across the world. All drivers compete in the powerful and dynamic Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on the Middle East’s finest racing circuits.
The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is based on the 911 series production model – a pure-bred sports car with exceptional levels of power and performance tuned further still to amplify its elite racing characteristics. Thanks to the weight-optimised modular racing exhaust system, the 3.8-litre flat-six engine of the 911 GT3 Cup produces 460 hp. The power of the engine is transmitted to the rear axle by a racing clutch and a six-speed sequential gearbox with mechanical slip differential. The electro-pneumatic paddle shift system makes gear changes fast and efficient.
The 911 GT3 Cup is also quicker to decelerate. Fit for endurance, the specially developed race brake system cuts braking distances, allowing the racing drama to be taken even closer to the corners. With greater power and enhanced deceleration, the car’s stability requirements are provided by an extended wheelbase – 100 mm longer than that of its predecessor – as well as an optimised chassis.

The 2016-2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East race schedule is: 

Round 1
17 - 19 Nov 2016
Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain

Round 2
9 - 12 Dec 2016
Dubai Autodrome, UAE

Round 3
27 - 28 Jan 2017
Dubai Autodrome, UAE

Round 4
10 - 11 Feb 2017
Yas Marina Circuit, UAE

Round 5
3 - 4 Mar 2017
Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain

Round 6 – F1 Support Race
14 - 16 Apr 2017
Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain

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