Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing has won Round 10 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East with yet another commanding display under the lights at Losail International Circuit to complete a memorable penultimate weekend of the season.
Starting in pole position on the grid, Schmid continued where he left off in Round 9, by producing another authoritative performance from the front to claim his second win of the weekend, seeing off challenges from Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal, second and Germany’s Markus Pommer in third.
The victory means Schmid now goes into the final two rounds on the last weekend of the fourth season in Bahrain leading the championship standings with a 10 points leads over closest rival Abdulaziz AlFaisal, with Al Nabooda racings Karim Al-Azhari in third.
Speaking after securing his victory in Round 10 by 1.941 seconds, Schmid is confident he can hold onto his slender lead. He added: “Today was a really hard race, tougher than yesterday. Abdulaziz didn’t make it easy and was close behind the hold race until he made one small mistake.
“I’m very happy to have pulled out a 10 points lead with only two rounds of racing left of the season. But the title is still not safe and it only takes one mistake. At least I know I don’t have to win the races, just stay ahead of Abdulaziz. So the pressure is on him now.”
The battle for the championship began with the two challengers starting first and second on the grid, with Lechner Racings Pommer in third position on the 15-car grid. Al-Azhari continued his quest to consolidate his third place in the standings by starting fourth, with Christina Nielsen in fifth and Faisal Binladen in sixth.
Reigning champion AlFaisal is confident he can defend his title going into the final weekend of the season. He added: “It was a tight race between me and Schmid. I pushed him all the way but he kept his composure throughout. I will be pushing him really hard in Bahrain and I don’t believe it is all over yet. I am taking one race at a time.”
In a thrilling race that was encapsulated by the rivalry between Schmid and AlFaisal, as looked for ascendency going into Rounds 11 and 12 in Bahrain, Schmid held onto his pole position lead throughout the 12-lap race on the 5.38km Losail track under the lights. AlFaisal continued to persist in overtaking his main rival, piling on the pressure, but the young Austrian held his nerve to claim his sixth victory in a row and his eight victory in the ten rounds completed in the season.
With the Losail floodlights providing a fantastic backdrop, the battle to finish in the top six was just as exciting as the two-horse race for the title. Lechner Racings Pommer, who started third on the grid, lost his position in the opening laps of the race to Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al-Azhari, but the young German showed his class and regained third spot a few laps later to finish in the final podium position.
With Al Nabooda Racings Al-Azhari finishing in forth, thus collecting valuable team points, the fight to finish in the top six was just as engrossing, with the Silver Michelin category contenders, Faisal Binladen, Zaid Ashkanani, Mohammed Mattar and Christina Nielsen battling it out to secure vital points.
The first female driver to race in the series, Nielsen held off the challenges of her Silver Michelin category rivals, especially BinLaden, who threatened to overtake her on the final lap. But the Dane held her nerve to edge out the Saudi Falcons driver to claim fifth position.
Christina Nielsen said after claiming fifth position: “Today I proved a lot to myself and to others. Qualifying and the race really went perfectly for me. It’s a satisfying feeling. Mentally my approach has developed throughout the season. I’ve learnt how to stay calm, focus and never give up.”
“I had set out with the aim this season of winning my category in a race and I’ve done that now. I’ve gained so much with this experience in the Middle East and I can take it with me now as I look to race in Europe. It’s been amazing.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship standings after Round 10 are: 1st Clemens Schmid (228 points, 2nd Abdulaziz AlFaisal (218 points), 3rd Karim Al-Azhari (180 points).
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Team Standings after Round 10 are: 1st Al Nabooda (404 points) 2nd Saudi Falcons (379 points), 3rd Team Bahrain (311 points).
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