Karim Al Azhari and Clemens Schmid know they will have to be at their best as Al Nabooda Racing aim to tighten their grip on the team title race when the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East reaches the half way point in the 2013-14 season in Qatar this weekend.
The defending team champions head into Rounds 5 and 6 of the region’s top one-make series at Losail International Circuit with a 35-point buffer over SkyDive Dubai Falcons, with last season’s runner-ups, the Saudi Falcons, just five points further adrift.
But with 96 championship points up for grabs this weekend, Al Azhari and Schmid are well aware that the pressure on them could mount, with the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car introduced this season effectively closing the gap between all the leading challengers.
“There are definitely more drivers pushing for the individual drivers’ title this season, and that’s making the team title race more competitive,” said Al Azhari, currently fifth in the drivers’ standings.
“The characteristics of the new GT3 Cup Car are playing a big part in this. It has a longer wheel base which gives more stability, it’s easier to drive, and it’s bringing the field a lot closer.
“There have been some amazing competitive times in every qualifying session over the first four rounds. It’s definitely making the series a lot more exciting, which is great for everyone.”
Schimd, defending his individual drivers’ crown for Al Nabooda Racing in the 12-round championship, has been in brilliant form this season, winning three of the first four rounds to take a 24-point lead over Hasher Al Maktoum.
“The new car is a big improvement from the previous version,” said Schmid. “The old car had the sequential gear box, now we have the flat E pedal shift. The engine has ten more horse power, while the car itself is lighter and has a better chassis with improved aerodynamics.
“There are also improvements to the inside of the car, including stronger seats. All these small details make the new car a little faster and easier to drive, and it’s bringing the competition closer.”
After tomorrow (Thursday) morning’s testing at Losail International Circuit, official practice on Friday is followed by qualifying session ahead of the GT3 Cup Round 5. Round 6 takes place on Saturday afternoon.