Clemens Schmid of Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing has secured his maiden Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship after finishing second in Round 12 at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in a fitting finale to the season.
Starting second on the 14-car grid, behind team-mate Karim Al-Azhari and 12-points clear before the start of the race, Schmid could not overtake his team-mate to win the race. But second place was enough to win him the title, as rival Abdulaziz AlFaisal of Saudi Falcons, the only driver capable of winning the crown finished third.
The second place finish for the Austrian in the most exciting race of the season means Schmid secured the title by a 14 points gap from two-times championship winner AlFaisal with 262 points and UAE’s Al-Azhari in third place with 224 points.
For those expecting the Al Nabooda duo to simply avoid danger in the final round and safely coast home, the race was a fantastic showpiece of pure racing contrary to be an epic dual between the two teammates both fighting for the race win.
Speaking after securing the title, an ecstatic Schmid said: “It is an amazing feeling to win the double, individual champion and team title. This is my first title and it completes a great season for me. I did not complete one race in Abu Dhabi but everything else fell in place perfectly for me. AlFaisal has made me a better driver by challenging me throughout the season. He is a true champion.”
The title showdown began with both challengers being upstaged by Al-Azhari who started in pole position on the 12-lap, 5.411KM BIC track, meaning AlFaisal, third on the grid, had it all to do from the second row to keep hold of his trophy.
The permutations before the race were clear; Schmid had to finish in the top eight to secure his first title. In a pulsating race where the lead changed frequently between the Al Nabooda pair, Al-Azhari maintained his position on the opening lap, before being overtaken by Schmid on the second lap.
Despite the best efforts of AlFaisal, last season’s champion was fighting solo and found himself crowded out and unable to force his way through the front two from Al Nabooda. With the championship at stake the battle between Schmid and Al-Azhari was compelling with no inch given between the teammates. But in the end Al-Azhari showed all his experience against the champion-elect to masterly negotiate his first race win of the season.
Former champion AlFaisal said after finishing in third place: “Congratulations to Clemens Schmid on a fantastic season. He has shown all season what a great future he has in the sport and he deserves the title. My target was to be in first position on the first corner but was crowded out by the Al Nabooda duo. They bought had a great battle between themselves but unfortunately I could not break through. I will be back next season to win back the championship.”
Speaking at the end of the most spectacular season in the history of the championship, Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East said: “Firstly huge congratulations to Clemens Schmid. Clemen’s has proved himself to be a worthy champion of the 4th season of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. His outstanding results speak for themselves both in the number of poles he secured and race victories, all of which were achieved in our most competitive season to date. Clemens is a young driver with big ambitions. I hope this experience will help his career and provide a stepping stone to more success on the international motorsport stage as he now looks to race in Europe.
“The significance of today and this series goes far beyond crowing champions. Every single aspect of the Porsche GT3 series in the Middle East has developed this season and reached a new level. The drivers, the teams, the rivalries and competition as well as the general interest from fans and sponsors have all grown immensely. I’m proud of what has been achieved but excited about the future as a formula for world-class competitive motorsport has been established to make each Porsche GT3 bigger and better. There is no other racing series that can offer such an opportunity or experience for Middle East racing talent. We’re already busy planning for season 5.”
The fight for the Silver Michelin category was just as entertaining as the overall standings. Saudi Falcons Faisal Binladen went into the race leading the category, but found himself under pressure from Team Bahrain’s Mohammed Mattar and Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani.
Starting eight on the grid, Binladen made a fantastic start on the first corner to take up fifth position where he eventually finished, thus becoming the Silver Michelin champion with 197 points. Bahrain’s home favourite Mattar finished the season second in the silver category with 181 points and one of the sensations of the season, Kuwait’s teenager Ashkanani finished third on his debut series with 169 points.
Speaking after winning the Silver Michelin Category of the 4th Season, Saudi Falcons Faisal BinLaden said: “What an amazing experience. The excitement and feeling is incredible. I’m so happy to have won my category but at the same time sad it is now all over. I had some great fights and rivalries throughout the season. I just wish we could keep on racing. There is simply nothing else like this for racing drivers in the region. It’s the only championship of its kind. It’s exactly what the best drivers want to race in and the only way motorsports in the Middle East can grow. I hope more will join and the grid gets bigger next season again. I’ll be aiming for the gold category.”
Austrian veteran Manfred Ender won the Bronze Mobile 1 category with 134 points after finishing seventh in Round 12, with Fakhraddin Mirzoev in second with 93 points and Turkey’s Cengiz Oguzhan in third with 90 points.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship standings after Round 12 are: 1st Clemens Schmid (276 points), 2nd Abdulaziz AlFaisal (262 points), 3rd Karim Al-Azhari (224 points), 4th Faisal Binladen (197 points), 5th Mohammed Mattar (181 points), 6th Zaid Ashkanani (169 points).
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Team Standings after Round 12 are: 1st Al Nabooda (500 points) 2nd Saudi Falcons (459 points), 3rd Team Bahrain (372 points).
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