Oliphant wins historic 100th race of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Tom Oliphant of Great Britain has won the 100th race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome as part of the UAE National Day series, with Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair second and Germany’s Wolfgang Triller third.
The landmark centennial race is the combined result of a special partnership between Porsche and Lechner Racing who committed to deliver the first and only professional motorsport series in region nearly a decade ago. The championship is credited with introducing the highest standards of racing to the Middle East as proven again today.
Victory by Oliphant in the second race of the weekend came by the tightest of margins. A mere 0.707 seconds separated Oliphant from regional hero Al Zubair following a colossal duel over 14 intense laps. It was the sweet revenge and a reversal of the previous day’s result. But it was never comfortable for Oliphant. He was forced to defend throughout as Al Zubair charged in the closing laps yet he held on for a cherished triumph.
Speaking after the 100th race of the series, Tom Oliphant said: “I got a really good start today and managed to stay ahead into turn one. I knew the first couple of laps would be difficult but I was able to hold my position and start to pull a gap ahead of Al Faisal Al Zubair. As the race went on my tyres started to wear and Al Faisal closed the gap behind me and started to put the pressure on. We ended up side by side for 3 or 4 turns, touched slightly but kept it clean, it was really good racing. I was able to defend my position in the last lap and cross the line in first place.
“I’m really pleased, and to win the 100th race in the championship is a real honour. We now move on with the championship lead going into the winter break and hope to come back to Dubai in the new year just as strong!”
The win for Oliphant is his second victory in the opening four races of the twelve race championship and extends his lead in the drivers’ standings to 6 points over Al Zubair. Both drivers remain locked at the top of the championship, with the battle expected to continue in 2018 when the series returns on 26th & 27th January also at the Dubai Autodrome. The top three drivers in the championship are; Oliphant 96 pts, Al Zubair 90 pts, Frijns 72 pts, with eight races remaining.
The historic 100th race has come courtesy of staging 9 consecutive seasons and featured an international grid of 17 elite drivers from 9 countries, including Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden alongside local stars from Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
A large crowd enjoyed the engrossing action which descended throughout the field. Behind Triller, Dutch star Charlie Frijns picked up his second fourth placed finish of the weekend. Fifth place went to French rookie Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and the top six positions were completed by Britain’s Glynn Geddie.
The impact of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been huge, accelerating the sport regionally and globally by offering a pathway to the top level of the sport for regional drivers. The 100th race typified the growing strength of the successful development program that is transforming the sport locally.
Young drivers from the region are amongst the brightest stars emerging with notable performances from Team Bahrain’s Ali Al Khalifa (11th), Saudi’s Mohammad Al Saud (12th) and Oman’s Khalid Al Wahaibi (14th), who all reached the podium in their respective categories.
At the end of the special 100th race, Walter Lechner said: “I am humble and proud to witness our 100th race. Tom is a worthy winner. But I honestly feel the most satisfying aspect of this moment is the fact that the sport is winning. The energy and momentum behind the championship feels unstoppable. These are special days.
“We have more drivers from more countries than ever before. Firm foundations have been established over many years and the result is a new breed of regional stars that hold every quality required to succeed in racing. It’s been a wonderful experience and journey to get to this landmark. But as the 100th race proved, we are accelerating towards even greater milestones in the future.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East now enters a short winter break before concluding the remainder of the season in 2018. The series returns to Dubai on 26th – 27th January 2018, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, 2nd – 3rd February 2018. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.