DUBAI, Feb 19: Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani put in skilful display at the 4.29km Dubai Autodrome track in Race 1 of Round 5 to claim a third place finish which sees him move up to second position in the overall Championship standings. After posting the second fastest time in morning qualifying, Ashkanani started on the grid behind Al Nabooda team-mate Jeffrey Schmidt in pole position. After a poor start he arrived into turn one on lap one in fourth position, but he kept his focus amidst a plethora of mistakes in front of him to finish third overall.
Securing 21 points in Race 1 pushes Ashkanani up to second position behind teammate Jeffrey Schmidt, who finished first in Race 1. The Al Nabooda Racing team’s performance today also helped extend their lead at the top of the Championship standings. The duo holds a comfortable lead over closest rivals, AlFaisal Racing, and will be hoping they can seal the deal and claim the title with a solid performance in Race 2 this weekend before heading to Bahrain for the finale in just two weeks’ time.
Speaking after Race 1, Zaid Ashkanani said:
“I feel really good after that race. I had a good start but I wanted to be very careful going into the first turn considering what happened in Round 4. Unfortunately Abdulaziz AlFaisal and Ryan Cullen overtook me on the corner and I dropped 2 places into 4th position. I pushed hard to close the gap between myself and Abdulaziz and was getting closer and closer. Ryan Cullen then span out and I managed to avoid this and found myself instantly in third place. I tried to push further for second but was unable to pass AlFaisal and finished in third place. I am happy with the position and will look forward to Race 2.”
Ahead of the hugely anticipated festivities at the Grand Prix Circuit of the Dubai Autodrome, the track had been reconfigured to provide drivers and motorsport fans alike with 14 high-octane laps of action — a significant change offering up a shorter and faster track of 4.29km. Already from the morning’s qualification it was clear that the drivers would be up for the challenge, with Schmidt able to start the race in pole position ahead of Ireland’s Ryan Cullen and Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani — mirroring the top-three in the driver’s standings ahead of this decisive round.
With only a handful of points separating Schmidt and Cullen, the stage was set for an intensely competitive race between the two talented drivers and the rest of the pack. Already from the start there were nervous moments with Ashkanani dropping two places by the first bend of lap 1 thanks to a poor start, allowing Abdulaziz AlFaisal to catapult himself into the podium battle from his P7 position.
This set Schmidt and Cullen up for a breath-taking bumper-to-bumper contest throughout the first nine laps, ahead of the pack.
With only four laps to go, the scene was set for pandemonium as Ryan Cullen spun out after pushing too hard. The failed manoeuvre reshuffled the pack and brought Ashkanani back in contention for a podium finish, all but confirming yet another dominant win for the imperious Schmidt ahead of AlFaisal in second.
Race 2 of Round 5 in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East continues later this weekend, when all eyes will be on Al Nabooda Racing Team and their dynamic duo of Jeffrey Schmidt and Zaid Ashkanani.
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series consists of 12 races between November 2015 and March 2016. Season 7 concludes at the illustrious Bahrain International Circuit between 4th and 5th March.
Overall Championship Standings
1st: Jeffrey Schmidt, UAE, Al Nabooda Racing — 200 pts; 2nd: Zaid Ashkanani, KUW, Al Nabooda Racing — 180 pts; 3rd: Ryan Cullen, IRL, Cullen Motorsport — 168 pts; 4th: Abdulaziz Al-Faisal, KSA, Al-Faisal Racing — 159 pts; 5th: Charlie Frijns, QAT, Frijns Structural Steel ME — 152 pts; 6th: Saud AlFaisal, KSA, Al-Faisal Racing — 125.
Team Championship Standings
1st: Al Nabooda Racing, UAE — 380; 2nd: Al-Faisal Racing, KSA — 284; 3rd: Frijns Structural Steel, ME, QAT — 230.
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.