Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair put on an assertive display at Dubai Autodrome to take the first race win of the weekend, despite an unusual third-place start.
The Season 9 champion had qualified pole in every race start this season until Saul Hack of South Africa and Leon Koehler of Germany out-paced him in Qualifying 1 to push the Omani back to the second row.
Al Zubair’s race pace couldn’t be contained though, by either Hack nor Koehler. The Omani superstar passed Koehler in the first lap before navigating past Hack shortly after. Berkay Besler of Turkey provided some pressure to the reigning champion midway through the race, but nothing could take Al Zubair’s focus from a top of the podium finish.
Speaking after his sixth race victory of Season 10, Al Zubair commented: “It was a hard-fought race today and it wasn’t easy starting in P3. Saul got off to a really fast start and it took me a couple of laps to find my opportunity. Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have taken some of the risks I did during the earlier laps, but I needed to be aggressive and drive hard. Fortunately, Saul made a mistake on lap three and I was able to take P1. Coming from behind makes it a really sweet victory, but now my focus turns to tomorrow. It’s an early start with a lot of racing and I’ll need to remain focused throughout the day if I want to build my lead and increase the points gap going into Round 4 next weekend.”
Round 3 of the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East continued to provide the excitement seen this year, due to a highly competitive grid featuring the next generation of drivers. Behind Al Zubair, Turkey’s Berkay Besler continued to show his consistency with a second-place finish. JB Simmenauer of France took the remaining podium position with his assertive driving now familiar with fans.
Teenager Khalid Al Wahaibi impressed once again this round, moving up from sixth to finish fourth. Hack maintained his pole position at the start of the race but struggled to keep Al Zubair contained, making a mistake in lap 3 which cost him the lead and later finishing fifth. After a poor qualification, newcomer Michael de Quesada started from ninth to finish in sixth place for valuable points in his challenge at the top of the standings with Al Zubair.
Speaking after his second-place finish, his highest result to date in the championships, Frenchmen JB Simmenauer said: “I’m so happy with today’s result; it’s a result I’ve wanted for a really, really long time. All the work that went into testing and qualifying paid off. I need to thank my mechanics and coach because they helped put me in a position to challenge the guys at the front of the grid; I felt like I was getting faster with every lap.
“I didn’t make some of the silly mistakes I made in previous rounds, meaning I was able to put everything together to drive a strong race. I had to remain focused throughout the race and needed a strong mentality once I gained a couple of places into third. The guys behind me pushed hard, but I remained calm and was able to hold my nerve.”
Round 3 continues at Dubai Autodrome tomorrow with a further two races featuring 16 drivers from 11 countries. The Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is now in its historic tenth season, making it the first and longest regional championship backed by a manufacturer in the Middle East.
Proud to continue nurturing home-grown motorsport talent from the region, it gives drivers access to the latest Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, the same model used for international motorsport editions, such as the Porsche Carrera Cup and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, the official F1 support race.