Muscat: Round nine of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday resulted in a frustrating outcome for championship front-runner Al Faisal Al Zubair when an unfortunate post-race penalty cost the Omani his seventh GCC Rookie win of the season.
Racing strongly to seventh place overall, having run inside the top six for a large portion of the 20-lap race, the first year Porsche driver also took the chequered flag in Sakhir first in the GCC Rookie battle and third in the Silver Cup.
Frustratingly, though, Al Faisal was penalised following the conclusion of the first of the weekend’s races when he mistakenly missed his grid position – confusion arising when the car ahead pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap.
Despite being dropped to last place in the final classification as a result, the Muscat 18-year-old still holds a strong advantage in the GCC Rookie championship standings and he is determined to close back in towards the Silver Cup class lead too in round 10.
“It’s really unfortunate what happened”, said Al Faisal after the race, “The guy in front of me went into the pits at the end of the green flag lap, I made a mistake and took his position on the grid, we had an aborted start and then they gave me a penalty at the end because of that. It’s a shame, but we have to accept it.
“The race was actually good, my pace was good and I felt I was driving quite consistently. I managed to move up into the top six, but then I lost a place again late on. I’m obviously disappointed to lose the GCC Rookie win and a Silver Cup podium, but we’ll be back fighting hard in race two and I aim to end the weekend with a very positive result.”
In qualifying for round nine, Al Faisal was just 0.5 seconds shy of the outright top three in a very closely matched session. His best lap of one minute and 6.629 seconds (1:06.629) placed him eighth on the grid for the opening encounter – securing third in the Silver Cup class and the GCC Rookie pole position.
Despite the confusion at the beginning of the race, Al Faisal made an excellent start and held sixth position before closing up behind Bandar Alesayi. Pushing hard and seeking a way through on lap two, the Omani took a look around the outside into the final turn but there was no way past and a momentary lock-up meant he had to tuck back in to sixth and second in Silver Cup.
Holding station into the second half of the 20-lap contest, Al Faisal did then begin to come under pressure himself and was edged back to seventh, third in Silver, before the chequered flag. After the post-race penalty, he was classified in last position.