DUBAI (UAE): Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair claimed a start-to-finish victory in the second race at round three of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome, while rookie Khalid Al-Wahaibi capped a superb weekend for the Sultanate of Oman with fifth overall and first in the Silver driver category.
Al-Zubair of the Lechner Racing Middle East team led from pole position and saw off a fierce challenge from Tom Oliphant to stay on the Briton’s tail at the midpoint of what is developing into a fascinating winter racing season in the Middle East.
“It was a very good race,” said a delighted Al-Zubair. “I started from pole and my start was definitely better than yesterday. I checked my data at the start and I knew where I was lacking. I fixed it and managed to get away. I don’t think my tyre pressures were so good at the beginning, but they worked during the race. I got faster and faster and, on the last few laps, I relaxed a bit. But it’s good to start on pole and win the race. It was a good weekend.”
Al-Wahaibi extended his lead the GCC Rookie Championship over Bahrain’s Ali Al-Khalifa with an excellent fifth position and first in the Silver category.
Al-Wahaibi said: “I started P4 and did exactly what I had to do in qualifying and started on the second row with the big boys up front. I had two really experienced guys, (Dylan) Pereira and (Glynn) Geddie, behind me. They got passed me at the start and I stuck behind them. Eventually Glynn made a mistake and I managed to get passed and take P5. He put pressure on me and, for eight or nine laps, it was about me not making any mistakes. Thankfully I didn’t and was able to finish P5. I started the season in Bronze and it’s great to win a Silver race.”
Oliphant got the better of his 16 rivals in the second practice session and topped the times with a lap of 1min 39.020sec, which put the Briton 0.239sec quicker than Glynn Geddie. Al-Zubair was the highest of the GCC drivers in third and Al-Wahaibi was ranked as the top Silver driver in an impressive fifth.
Qualifying was a different story, however, and Al-Zubair saved his best performance of the day thus far for his pole position lap of 1min 38.492sec, which put him 0.252sec ahead of Frijns and in prime position to win the second race. Closest rival Oliphant qualified in third and Al-Wahaibi delivered another stunning session to card the fourth fastest time and lead the Silver drivers with a lap of 1min 39.024sec.
Al-Zubair said: “It was a good session for me, more than two-tenths difference on a short circuit. We should be happy with that. It’s definitely the best place to start the race. The start is a big part of the race.”
“This was definitely my best ever qualifying, especially after yesterday’s terrible session,” said a delighted Al-Wahaibi. “I didn’t want that feeling again that I felt yesterday. Going out on the used tyres definitely helped me prepare for the new tyre run. Mentally, I just told myself not to put too much pressure on myself and we can see the result – P4.”
Action in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East resumes at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi next weekend.