Abu Dhabi: Reigning champion Abdul Aziz Al Faisal of the Saudi Falcons made it a memorable weekend, winning round four of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in a dramatic race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
After securing pole position on the 16-car grid, Al Faisal produced a cool, calm and collected champion’s performance to take maximum points for the second successive race on the North Corkscrew track.
In an enthralling encounter the Saudi star saw off challenges from Al Nabooda Racing Clemens Schmid, who finished second and Qatar’s Abdul Rahman Al Thani in third, winning by a margin of 11.148 seconds.
Al Faisal said: “It was easier than the first race but still not easy. Being on pole made a difference and from there I was able to pull out a gap. Clemens made a mistake and I didn’t see him after that. I’m really pleased to have posted the quickest time in the race and it was even quicker than qualifying. It shows everything was working perfectly.
“Between now and Dubai next week I’ll relax, enjoy the weather and come back fresh for the challenge next week. I’ve a lot of experience in Dubai but I know I’ll need to be at my best to secure more victories.”
Boosted by his earlier victory in round three, Al Faisal dominated from start to finish maintaining first position throughout, without being seriously threatened, adding the quickest race lap time to his pole position.
Despite the straightforward win for Saudi Falcons driver, the real battle was to fill second and third place on the podium. After retiring early during round three, Dubai-based Schmid found himself fighting through the midfield after spinning on the exit of the corkscrew early in the race and falling back to sixth. The Austrian then showed all his skill, courage and grit to claim second place as he raced through the field.
Schmid said: “Despite finishing second in round four, it has been a bad weekend for me. I lost control of the car with a simple mistake. But I showed good courage to fight back from sixth to finish second and get valuable points for the team.”
On his full season debut Qatar’s Al Thani realised his some of his immense potential, coming through a head-to-head duel with the UAE’s Al Azhari that lasted until the final lap before the Qatari overtook the Al Nabooda driver.
Looking back on his first podium, Al Thani said: “Today was a very tough race. I jumpstarted in third round and was determined to pull back in the fourth. I wanted to show everyone that I could secure a podium with my abilities. In round four I secured the podium with a daring move in the final laps. It was a risky manoeuvre, but that’s racing. Sometimes you need to give it your all and if you’re fortunate it pays off.”
He added: “In the end I managed to secure third in gold and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. Next week at the Dubai Autodrome will also be a tough week but I’m looking forward to rounds five and six to secure a further podium.”
Al Nabooda’s Al Azhari, who started fourth on the grid also finished fourth after a spirited drive holding off the best efforts of rookie Zaid Ashkanani. The Kuwaiti teenager added more valuable points to his season’s total with a fifth-place finish ahead of Bahrain’s Mohammad Mattar in sixth position.
Al Azhari was delighted with his weekend’s work, but was unhappy not to finish on the podium with his teammate. He said: “It has been a thrilling round of racing this weekend, finishing second and fourth respectively in the two races. I lost out on the last lap to Al Thani, which cost me a position on the podium.”
Round four action followed a thrilling race in round three, which was also won by Al Faisal. After securing second position on pole, the Saudi produced a master-class of controlled driving to overtake Al Azhari in the first lap and hold off the challenge of the Al Nabooda contingent to claim his first victory of the season.
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Overall Driver Standings after Round 4 are: 1 Abdul Aziz Al Faisal (94 points), 2 Karim Al Azhari (82), 3 Clemens Schmid (78). Dubai’s Al Nabooda Racing lead the team title.
The championship continues with rounds five and six at the Dubai Autodrome on December 13th and 14th.