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Ashkanani wins maiden Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ME ‘title’ Al Nabooda star

KUWAIT CITY, March 8: Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani roared into the record books as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East’s youngest ever champion after finishing third in the final race of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit. Taking a five point lead into the final race of the season the ramifications at the start were clear for Ashkanani. He simply had to win the encounter or finish two places behind the UAE-based Schmid. The Kuwaiti produced the race of his short career to claim third place, behind Charlie Frijns and championship runner-up Schmid. Speaking after claiming the title, an emotional Ashkanani said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet but today saw the toughest race of the season and my best. I have worked very hard this year to claw-back the points on Schmid and I am delighted to be the youngest champion in the series. I would like to thank my father for his fantastic support and the confidence he has instilled in me.”

 “The rolling start meant I was playing catch-up quite early and was involved in a tough fight with Abdulaziz AlFaisal and Karim Al-Azhari for third position. I was aware of what I needed to do at the start of the race and once I gained third place I just tried to stay focused,” added Ashkanani. Race 2 in Round 6 was interrupted after the initial start following an on-track incident and began with rolling start where Schmid held pole and Ashkanani fifth. Schmid made full use of his advantage to extend the gap between himself and the rest of field to win Race 2 by 4.393 seconds with Frijns also maintaining a substantial distance between himself and the next driver.

The real-battle was for third place and delivered the fight of the season between Ashkanani, Al-Azhari and AlFaisal. Al Nabooda Racing’s Al-Azhari initially took control of the spot despite being bumper-to-bumper with Ashkanani in the opening laps. Then Saudi Falcons AlFaisal pounced on a mistake by Al-Azhari to overtake the UAE-driver into third. But he never had full control of the position and was under constant pressure from Ashkanani. At the mid-point of the race, Ashkanani, Al-Azhari and AlFaisal were neck-and-neck going into the first corner and the decisive moment of the race was to unfold. The Kuwaiti teenager was sandwiched between his adversaries but kept his composure to break free and take full control of third and the challenge title.

Speaking after the race, two-time champion AlFaisal said: “Ashkanani is a worthy champion and fully deserves the crown. He has been excellent all season and produced an outstanding display against a very strong grid. The ultimate challenge for Zaid begins now and he has to reproduce this form and more if he is to go on to defend the title.” In the team category Clemens Schmid and Karim Al Azhari’s impressive form over the season means Al Nabooda Racing were victorious in the team title ahead of Saudi Falcons and Skydive Dubai Falcons. In the Silver Michelin category Antonia Giancola emerged the winner.

For the full race schedule, driver profiles or latest news on GT Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East please visit the official website: www.gt3cupchallenge-me.com or follow series’ news at www.facebook.com/porscheGT3CCME or on Twitter @PorscheGT3CCME.

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