The region’s leading one-make series heads to the Reem International Circuit, Saudi Arabia after its seven-week winter break for Rounds 7 and 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East on 6th and 7th February.
A highly competitive line-up with an international flavour, spanning eleven nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will seek to narrow the gap on championship leader and home favourite, Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal.
With the season at the half-way stage, and only six rounds left, a pack led by Al Nabooda duo of Clemens Schmid and Karim Al-Azhari, Kuwait teenager Zaid Ashkanani, Qatar’s Abdul Rahman Al Thani and the double act from Team Bahrain, Mohammed Mattar and Raed Raffii are fight for individual and team points in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Falcons driver leads the championship standings with 140 points, a marginal 12-point lead against his closest rival, Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid, followed by UAE’s Karim Al-Azhari on 117 points.
Walter Lechner, Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said: “We are at the stage of the season where every lap and podium position will be keenly fought. It will be intense and nerve-wrecking. The championship can be decided by a small mistake and the next six rounds will prove why the series is the purest form of racing. Clemens was back to his best in Dubai and gave a stunning exhibition of composure under pressure from Abdulaziz. But expect the reigning champion to fight back on home his home circuit.”
If previous season results at Reem are to be taken as a indicator, it will take a mighty effort for one of the strongest grids ever assembled in the history of the series to stop AlFaisal from moving closer to a third title in four years.
AlFaisal has won seven out of ten Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East races staged at Reem over the past three seasons, proving almost unbeatable on the twisting track set against the background of rolling sandy hills on the outskirts of Riyadh.
AlFaisal will look to extend his lead over Schmid and continue his quest for an unprecedented third championship. He said: “Home advantage will only count if I win both rounds, until then it does not come into the equation. Coming on the back of two second place finishes, it’s important we capitalise on the opportunities available at Reem as it is a track I know very well.”
Schmid will look to replicate his performances in Bahrain and Dubai where he won both rounds, and displace the Saudi from top spot.
Schmid is confident going into Rounds 7 and 8. He said: “Performance wise in Dubai it could not have been better. I need to continue the momentum into Reem and try to win a hat-trick of rounds to put pressure on AlFaisal, who will be confident in front of his home crowd. It is a critical stage of the season, because one small mistake can be the difference between winning and losing the championship. I also need to perform for my team, collect maximum points and make sure we are leading the Team Title standings going into the last four rounds. ”
Al-Azhari, said in Dubai he felt assured of collecting more points and finishing on the podium in Rounds 7 and 8. The UAE driver, currently in third place on the overall standings, is 23 points behind AlFaisal.
Also hoping to pile on the points will be one of the revelations of the season, Kuwait’s Ashkanani. Currently in fourth position and leading in the Silver category, he will be looking to go on the attack as he looks to break into the top three positions in his first season in the championship.
The Team Title category is just as tight as the overall championship standings with Al Nabooda Racing leading with 245 points, a 20 point lead over Saudi Falcons. Team Bahrain are in third place on 202 points.
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