The fourth season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is eagerly poised for a dramatic second half when the drivers return from their winter break to the Reem International Circuit, Saudi Arabia for Rounds 7 and 8 in February.
Reigning champion Abdulaziz AlFaisal, driving for Saudi Falcons, will be looking for home advantage if he is to claim an unprecedented third title. AlFaisal leads main rival Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda by 12 points after six rounds of the leading regional series with Dubai-based team mate Karim Al-Azhari trailing in third place on 117 points.
The 2012/13 season has already been a powerful mix of great racing and unpredictable results, but as the teams and drivers head off for their mid-season break, it is clear that what it has served up so far has merely been an appetiser.
Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said: “The first six rounds of the season have been nothing short of dramatic. We have not had the same podium in any round. It merely shows the level of competition and the unpredictability of the fourth season. The second half of the season will be just as dramatic.”
“There have been some amazing individual performances from the likes of Zaid Ashkanani, Christina Nielsen and the Team Bahrain duo of Mohammed Mattar and Raed Raffii. But Abdulaziz and Clemens are clearly leading the championship standings. When I look at their performances over the course of the season, I am sure the decision on who will be the season’s champion will go down to the last round of the season,” added Lechner.
AlFaisal and Schmid have been the driving force for the top-two positions at the mid-point of the season, with Schmid winning four rounds to AlFaisal’ s two. The Austrian set the early initiative by taking home top honors for the first two rounds at the Bahrain International Circuit. But the Saudi fought back and showed why he is the reigning champion, with two commanding performances at the opulent Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, and roared his way to the top.
AlFaisal threw down the gauntlet to Schmid who duly obliged with two sensational performances at the Dubai Autodrome, to keep himself in the running for the coveted championship prize. The Al Nabooda duo’s performances also ensured the team stayed at the top of the Team Category standings with 245 points over Saudi Falcons in second place with 225 points.
The Saudi is happy to be leading after six rounds of gruelling action but is aware Schmid will push him to the last chequered flag of the season.
He added: “My job is far from done. I may be leading at the half-way stage, but I am only interested in the table at the end of the season. You don’t win anything after six rounds. Clemens will be fighting, as he has been doing, to take the championship away from me but I am determined to hold onto my crown. Rounds 7 to 12 will be just as frantic and pulsating.”
With the top-three battling it out for the championship, the fight to finish in the top six has also added an extra spice to Season 4.
The youngest driver on the circuit, Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani, who made his series’ debut this season in Bahrain, is currently holding the fourth position with 98 points and leading in the Silver Michelin Trophy. He has demonstrated his talent and ability amongst the strongest grid ever assembled in the history of the series. Ashkanani gained his first podium position in Round 3. Hot on his heels is Saudi Falcons’ Faisal Binladen with 85 points and the first female driver to ever race in the Middle East, Denmark’s Christina Nielsen who managed to collect a total of 82 points thus far.
Team Bahrain’s Mohammed Mattar and Raed Raffii have held the team’s flag high with impressive performances. Raffii claimed his first podium position of the championships in Round 5 at the Dubai Autodrome when he was the third fastest driver on the grid.
The series returns for Rounds 7 and 8 at the Reem International Circuit, Saudi Arabia on the 6th and 7th February.