KUWAIT CITY, March 29: The Middle East’s leading racers are set to return to the track for a special, two-race Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East showdown this weekend, as the most professional series in the region takes on the role of official support race for the 2016 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
Eight of the top nine drivers of the Season 7 championship have confirmed their participation and will battle it out in two, winner takes all races which will also feature the champion, runner up and third place from the most recent edition of the series. Recently crowned victor Jeffrey Schmidt from the UAE will face off against team mate and close rival Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait, while Ireland’s Ryan Cullen will also be on the hunt for more silverware in what will be one of the last outings of the regional calendar.
For Ashkanani the weekend is another opportunity to showcase his talent on the biggest stage of all and against a talented grid of Porsche drivers including a host of home-grown emerging talent and racing veterans from across the region.
Drivers spanning eleven nations, including host nation Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, will enjoy the racing experience of a lifetime competing across three categories and over the challenging 5.4km GP circuit at Sakhir, in front the region’s passionate fans and from behind the wheel of the powerful Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
The announcement is a huge boost for local motorsport with some of the best regional drivers being given a rare opportunity to showcase their talents while sharing the stage with the current stars of Formula One. The race not only sees an emotional return for the competitors to the Bahrain International Circuit, the home base for Lechner Racing, but also the region’s top drivers playing a leading role in one of Middle East motorsport’s biggest events.
Fresh from his team victory in the latest Porsche GT3 Challenge Middle East season where he finished runner up to UAE-based Jeffrey Schmidt, Ashkanani is looking for more success, this time around in the prestigious Bahrain Grand Prix support race.
Speaking ahead of the Bahrain F1 support race, Zaid Ashkanani said: “After a very exciting season this is the perfect way to cap it all off, with a showcase weekend of racing featuring some of the best drivers currently competing in the Middle East. While I was really happy to take the team trophy together with Jeffrey (Schmidt), I was a little disappointed to finish runner up in the drivers’ championship as I am always hungry for more success. He was a deserved winner but I hope to use this race as an opportunity to end the season with a win over the champion. We all know the circuit very well but with the added pressure of the F1 weekend and also limited track time the racing will be exciting and action packed. It’s a great opportunity for us to take our racing to a new level and a new audience.”
For Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Manager Walter Lechner racing at such a prestigious event can only be a positive for the aspiring young drivers. He said: “We’re thrilled to be back in Bahrain racing on a track we always enjoy. We have only just concluded the most exciting series in our history but now the drivers have a new goal and a new opportunity. This race will give every single one of them a chance to be heroes in front of packed stands as well as Middle Eastern and global TV audiences.”