Karim Al Azhari believes his growing understanding with team-mate Clemens Schmid will be a key factor as Al Nabooda Racing prepare to launch a double title defence when the
Al Azhari, one of the most successful circuit racers in the UAE, has developed a strong bond with the young Austrian driver who linked up with him to give the Dubai outfit the GT3 Cup team championship last season, and also landed the individual driver’s crown.
They are very much the team the rest want to beat when the 2013-14 season gets under day at Bahrain International Circuit on 29-30 November, but Al Azhari feels the bond between himself and Schmid can help them fight off all challengers.
“We get along very well and have become good friends over the last year or so which certainly helps, not only during race weekends, but in the preparation, which is crucial,” said Al Azhari. “We have great energy between us and of course this helps us to be competitive on race-day.
“Now our preparation as a team has been to basically understand how we won the championship last season and to make sure we are ready for this season.
“Of course, we are under more pressure as defending champions, but we have prepared well and are ready for the challenge.”
The biggest threat to the prospect of back-to-back double title triumphs for Al Nabooda Racing will almost certainly come from the Saudi Falcons, last season’s runners up in the team championship.
Two-times individual champion Abdulaziz Al Faisal had to be content with second best behind Schmid last season while team-mate Faisal Binladen followed Al Azhari home in fourth position in the drivers’ championship.
The Saudis want to reverse the positions this time, and Schmid says: “It’s always going to be tough, and the Saudi Falcons will again be up for the fight this season, but we are relishing that challenge.”
“Karim and I work very well together, and we are always helping each other and pushing each other to improve. Last year we won 10 races and earned 11 pole positions together. This year our goal is to better that.”
Schmid earned nine wins from as many pole positions last season while Al Azhari claimed his first GT3 Cup race victory in the last round in Bahrain and is relishing a return to action at the same circuit.
After this month’s season opener, the GT3 Cup series heads for Rounds 3 and 4 at Dubai Autodrome on 12-13 December, before reaching the half way point at Losail International Circuit in Qatar on 17-18 January 2014.