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KUWAIT CITY, Dec 5: Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani has played the role of the perfect teammate for Al Nabooda Racing at Al Reem International Circuit in Saudi Arabia by claiming second placed behind ally and stablemate Jeffrey Schmidt in Race 1 of Round 2 in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 7.
After dominating the season so far and from the front row of the grid in Race 1 of Round 2, new teammates Jeffrey Schmidt and Kuwaiti driving sensation Zaid Ashkanani proved a formidable force to calmly take the top two steps on the podium. Schmidt who has been in invincible form won by a gap of 0.893 seconds over the seventeen lap race ahead of Ashkanani in second and Qatar-based Charlie Frijns in third.
Schmidt (75 points) is now twelve points clear at the top of the individual driver standings after three races, leading from Ireland’s Ryan Cullen (63 points) and Zaid Ashkanani third overall (61 points). In the race for the team championship Al Nabooda Racing (136 points) are now thirty-three points clear of Dubai rivals Skydive Dubai Falcons (103 points) with newcomers AlFaisal Racing in third (84 points). Second placed, Zaid Ashkanani of the Al Nabooda Racing commented:
“I am quite happy with the result, starting from the front row was good, but unfortunately I was starting on the dirty side of the track, so it was difficult to make a good start. I had Charlie attacking me from the beginning so I really had to defend my position in the first lap. The gap between me and first place started to open and it was difficult to close the gap. I managed to get closer to Jeffrey towards the end but it wasn’t enough. I am happy with the result and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Speaking after extending his winning record with victory in Saudi Arabia Al Nabooda Racing’s Jeffrey Schmidt said: “It was a really good race for me and feels great to get a competitive victory. It was a team effort and hopefully we can repeat that tomorrow. It is very sandy out there, the conditions are difficult and the track is very slippery. Every lap was hard, and I had to really concentrate not to make any mistakes. I managed to keep hold of the lead and I am very happy to win again for the team. It was also great to share the podium with Zaid (Ashkanani).”
With the top-two finish Al Nabooda will increase their lead in the team title as UAE rivals and second placed team Skydive Dubai Falcons had a surprisingly disappointing day on the highly technical track located just outside Riyadh. Following strong performances in the opening round in Bahrain the typically consistent Skydive Dubai Falcons drivers of Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum managed to finish sixth, while teammate Saeed Al Mehairi could only secure ninth. The second round of the racing series served up even more thrilling action and pulsating driving on the limit as championship raced into life alongside the fierce competition witnessed during the opening race in the Kingdom of Bahrain two weeks ago. UAE’s Jeffrey Schmidt of Al Nabooda Racing claimed his second pole in three starts by setting the fastest time in qualifying, making the Saudi circuit his own in a time of 1:16.110 for Race 1 followed by teammate Zaid Ashkanani with the second quickest qualifying time.
From the green lights to the chequered flag the Al Nabooda Racing duo maintained a comfortable lead throughout with the only real challenge coming from a charging Charlie Frijns who put Ashkanani under some early pressure. Despite best efforts from Frijns there was little overtaking during the race on a track which is notoriously difficult to pass on. The only drama occurring on the tenth lap when Ireland’s Ryan Cullen left the track briefly to let local hero and former Champion Abdulaziz AlFaisal slip into fourth position.
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2015 and March 2016.