Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing has won Round 9 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Losail International Circuit with a dazzling performance under the lights in a race packed with enthralling action featuring one of the strongest grids in the history of the leading one-make series.
After starting in pole position on the 15-car grid, Schmid once again produced a flawless race to claim his fifth win in a row and extend his lead by eight points over Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal in the overall championship standings.
The young Austrian grabbed maximum points on the 5.38km Losail International Circuit, defying challenges from adversary Abdulaziz, second and Germany’s newcomer to the series and former F2 driver Markus Pommer in third.
Speaking after winning his seventh round of the fourth season of the championship, Schmid said: “From pole my start was ok but I got into the important first corner still holding onto my lead and that was vital. Abdulaziz put me under real pressure the first few laps as his tires were new. I managed to hold him off and once my tires got up to racing speeds I pulled out a bit of lead. It went exactly as planned and I’m delighted to further my lead in the championship. Hopefully I can repeat it again in round 10 under the lights. It’s an incredible experience to race in the Porsche GT3 at night.”
The fight for supremacy began with the top two being separated by Lechner Racings Markus Pommer, who started second on the grid, while Abdulaziz began Round 9 third on the grid. Teenage rookie Charlie Frijns was the surprise package of the qualifying rounds as he started fourth on the grid, pushing Saudi Falcons Faisal Binladen into fifth with Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani in sixth.
An optimistic Abdulaziz said he is confident of success in Round 10 and putting pressure on Schmid. He added: “I am pretty happy with my performance. I started third on the grid and finished in second position. Obviously you want to win the race but there is plenty to play for in the coming rounds. I have the belief that I can turn things around, starting in Round 10.”
In an action-packed night-time race, where three drivers were forced out of the race in the first lap, Schmid was never threatened by Abdulaziz and Pommer as he accelerated his lead with each lap and marched on to claim his seventh victory in nine rounds by 7.815 seconds. With the top two sorting themselves out, Pommer and Saudi Falcons Faisal Binladen were engrossed in a battle to claim the third podium position.
Starting second on the grid, Pommer lost his position in the early stages of the race to Binladen, but regained it at the halfway stage of the 12-lap race to claim third place. The battle to complete the top-six was just as pulsating with Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al-Azhari, Binladen, Bahrain’s Mohammed Mattar and Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani battling for positions.
UAE’s Al-Azhari produced a fantastic final lap to overtake Binladen and Ashkanani to claim fourth place, with Binladen seeing off the challenge of Ashkanani to finish fifth, while Mattar jostled with the Kuwaiti and piped him into sixth place.
A disappointed Binladen said: “For the first half of the race, I was in a perfect position to finish in the top three, but Pommer was far too quick for me and overtook me to claim third. Then I was involved in a midfield battle with Al-Azhari and Zaid. It was very tight between the three of us, and Karim used his experience to overtake us and claim fourth position. It was not what I expected in this race, so I am determined to produce the goods in Round 10.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East championship standings after Round 9 are: 1st Clemens Schmid (203 points, 2nd Abdulaziz AlFaisal (195 points), 3rd Karim Al-Azhari (161 points).
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Team Standings after Round 9 are: 1st Al Nabooda (364 points) 2nd Saudi Falcons (341 points), 3rd Team Bahrain (287 points).