The region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, is set to make its fast-paced return to the Losail International Circuit, Qatar this weekend with Round 4 getting underway on the 31st January and 1st February 2014.
After battling in the middle of the pack a fortnight ago, the Skydive Dubai Falcons duo of Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum and Saeed Al Mehairi are looking to continue their development and have set their sights on a podium finish in the upcoming races. Under the lights, the previous round saw the region’s leading drivers encounter challenging wet conditions in Qatar as the series now powers towards the business end, where every points counts. Reigning champion Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing currently leads the championship by 27 points and will be targeting two victories as he closes in on his second title.
With the top five separated by only 47 points and 150 left to play for, the fifth edition of the series promises to go down to the wire as has been the case in previous years. Losail International Circuit is once again set to be the next battleground as the drivers congregate in Qatar for more drama and high-octane action.
Walter Lechner, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East manager, said: “The Losail International Circuit is one of the highlights of the season and we are happy to be back. As we saw in Round 3, it is a different challenge driving under the lights which pushes the drivers further and adds even more excitement to the competition. We are delighted to be back in Qatar and produce two more absorbing races. We have witnessed some sensational action this season and we cannot predict the results in any of the races. It’s been great to see the new teams pushing the others this season. Skydive Dubai Falcons have been hungry and really want to improve; that’s good news for the competition but also for the racing scene in the Middle East.”
Skydive Dubai’s season has been a mixed bag with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum climbing up to a high of third in the drivers’ championship, after some impressive driving and results in the early stages. As the series has gone and the competition increased however, the team have had to battle a resurgent Saudi Falcons as well as the newly formed Buzaid GT, led by Kuwaiti sensation Zaid Ashkanani.
Speaking ahead of the second weekend of race action in Doha Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum said, “We had a great start to the season but the competition has really heated up over the last few weeks. Every race is now hugely challenging but we have to rise to it if we’re going to succeed in this series. Last weekend was a lot of fun on the track but we can definitely improve our results. A podium finish would be ideal but we’re aware of just how good the other drivers are. That said we have to be confident and set ourselves big targets.”
Posing the ultimate challenge for Skydive Dubai Falcons and the rest of the pack has been Clemens Schmid of UAE team Al Nabooda Racing. At the beginning of the campaign, Schmid seemed odds-on to dominate the field and defend his title but he has faced stiff opposition in the form of Ashkanani, Al Maktoum and Saudi Falcons’ Abdulaziz AlFaisal. In Race 1 in Doha, Schmid produced a superior racing display to claim victory from pole to chequered flag by 3.384 seconds over second placed sensation of the season Ashkanani, and third-placed AlFaisal. The UAE-based Schmid controlled the contest after regaining his pole position in lap two, which saw the first appearance of the all-new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in Qatar.
Race 2 was the most challenging encounter of the season, as wet conditions and a rolling start ensured another riveting contest which saw stand-in driver Jeffrey Schmidt helping the Saudi Falcons to a sensational victory. Starting from pole position and sitting in for Faisal Binladen, Schmidt produced a flying start to canter through to a 5.750 seconds victory. Ashkanani continued his impressive run of form to finish runner-up, ahead of reigning champion Schmid and moving second on the championship standings, 27-points behind the Austrian. Switzerland’s Schmidt, with a burgeoning reputation in motorsport in his teenage years, dominated from a rolling start following heavy rain throughout the day in Doha to control the race, and never looked threatened as he accelerated away from 17-car grid.
Looking forward to Qatar, reigning champion and current series leader Clemens Schmid said: “It has been an unbelievable season so far and it is no surprise the way the results have been going as it is a very strong grid. I have a relatively good gap at the top of the table but I am not taking anything for granted. Ashkanani has been phenomenal and with the form he is in anything can happen. I am looking to collect maximum points this weekend and with the next race on home territory I will be looking to close in on the title.”
The series returns to the Losail International Circuit for Round 4 on 31st January and 1st February 2014.
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