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Ashkanani closes gap in Porsche GT3 Cup Round 5 Kuwaiti produces courageous performance

DUBAI, Feb 15: Kuwaiti driving ace Zaid Ashkanani produced a courageous performance in the opening racing of Round 5 in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Dubai Autodrome to finish fifth and narrow the gap on championship leader Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing. Only 22 points now separate the youngster and first position of the leading and most exciting motorsport series in the region with three races remaining. In only his second season racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup, Ashkanani stayed clear of danger and showed great maturity to collect valuable points when his main rival Schmid was forced into an early retirement after a collision.

The result is a huge boost for Ashkanani despite failing to reach the podium with the gap between Al Nabooda’s Schmid and the Kuwait driver expected to be reduced even further after Race 2 in Dubai on the news that Schmid faces a one race ban and will not feature again in Round 5. Officials declared in the track incident involving Bandar Alesayi on the second lap Schmid ‘caused an accident through dangerous driving.’  As a result the race for the driver title has been thrown wide open in spectacular fashion. Ashkanani now knows that by finishing in the top two positions in Race 2 he will leapfrog Schmid with only one round to go in Bahrain. Dubai has been the scene of a dramatic twist to the intriguing three-way fight for the championship.

Speaking after the race Team BuzaidGT star said: “The points scored today were vital. Qualifying was not perfect and I made a couple of mistakes. They got me stuck in the middle of the grid, fighting with Hasher Al Maktoum. I overtook Hasher late in the race but there was not enough time to gain more positions or the podium.  “I can’t be too disappointed though. I’ve closed the gap to only 22 points so it’s all to play for in Race 2. I hope to repeat the win I had in Dubai early in the season. Tomorrow is a new day, a new race and I’m looking forward to qualifying and the chance to close the gap further.” Ahead of Ashkanani the podium places were taken by Saudi Falcons Abdulaziz AlFaisal (1st) and Skydive Dubai Falcons Saeed Al Mehairi (2nd) and Saudi driver Fahad Algosaibi (3rd). 

Round 5 had been billed as a defining moment in the championship and it didn’t disappoint. Right from the start the action came fast and furious as the man to beat Dubai based Clemens Schmid was forced to withdraw. The championship leader and defending champion had a day to forget after a second lap collision gave his rivals the opportunity to take full advantage and narrow the gap.  A slight collision with AlFaisal and then a second red flag incident involving Bandar Alesayi ended the race for Schmid and led to a restart. Once underway for the second time Al Mehairi was aggressive and seized control of the race from the front, despite the constant pressure from AlFaisal.

With an unlikely victory in sight, Al Mehairi made a minor mistake on worn tires at the end of the back straight with one lap to go and provided an opening for AlFaisal. It was the gap former champion AlFaisal had been waiting for and he instantly slipped past Al Mehairi to take the chequered flag. Having enjoyed the top step of the podium AlFaisal said: “It was a very tough race and very satisfying at the same time. At this point in the season there is a lot of tension and the grid this year is very tight with little between the drivers. There was quite a bit of contact at the start and we lost a couple of drivers but that’s racing. I managed to keep myself safe.

“At the restart, Saeed did very well to get ahead and showed great composure for most of the race, especially when still a rookie and I am delighted that he has claimed his first podium. Today I just stayed patient and it paid off. This result could be crucial come the end of the season. “ The result sees the gap at the top of the overall standings narrow to just 19 points as AlFaisal (177) moves into second place ahead of Zaid Ashkanani (174) who is 22 points behind Schmid (196), with 75 points on offer and three races of the season left.  In the midfield tussle for the top 6 places Charlie Frijns, Zaid Ashkanani and Skydive Dubai Falcons Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum went head to head with places constantly changing on each lap. In the end Frijns secured fourth, Ashkanani fifth and Al Maktoum sixth. 

Elsewhere Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al-Azhari who started ninth on the grid improved by two places to claim important points in his team’s quest to defend the Team title as Al Nabooda continue out front. While Qatari motoring legend Nasser Al Attiyah impressed again winning Silver category in tenth overall. 
The region’s most professional racing series continues at the Dubai Autodrome with the second race of Round 5 tomorrow, Saturday 15th February at 15:55. For the full race schedule, driver profiles or latest news on GT Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East please visit the official website: or follow series’ news at or on Twitter @PorscheGT3CCME.

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