Muscat: Oman’s talented driver Al Faisal al Zubair will make his debut in the highly-competitive 2022 GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup this season.
Al Faisal will be spearheading the challenge for Oman-based Al Manar Racing by Haupt Racing Team (HRT). The three-member team will comprise Germany’s Fabian Schiller and Dubai-based Zimbabwean Axcil Jefferies.
The trio will competing the five-round GT World Challenge Europe series with the opening round to be held at Imola circuit in Italy from April 1-3.
The other stopovers for Al Manar Racing-HRT will be Paul Richard (France), Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Hockenheim (Germany) and Barcelona (Spain).
Following a successful campaign in the 2021 International GT Open Series - Al Faisal’s Lechner Racing claimed the overall runner-up position and was placed third in drivers’ championship standings – it will be a new challenge for the the 23-year-old Muscat-based racer.
Al Faisal will be taking part in the Silver Cup class, along with Schiller and Jefferies, in the Endurance Series of the GT Challenge. The trio completed the first of the three testing sessions for the season at Imola circuit on Thursday.
The team will have further two more testing sessions at Paul Ricard and Hockenheim circuits before the launch of the season in April.
The highlight of the series will be the participation in the 24 Hours of Spa from July 28-31. The Belgian endurance classic combines a unique sense of history with the unparalleled sporting challenge.
The twice-around-the-clock event represents the pinnacle of global GT racing, drawing the world’s best teams and drivers to the Belgian Ardennes.
While the races at Imola, Hockenheim and Barcelona will be run over three hours each, Circuit Paul Ricard 1,000km will feature a six-hour race.
Al Faisal’s previous experience with HRT and Mercedes-AMG was at the start of 2022. Racing for Al Manar Racing by HRT Team, Al Faisal claimed fifth position in the Hankook 24H Dubai at the Dubai Autodrome in January.
Al Faisal had teamed up with Dutchman Indy Dontje, Germany’s driver Luca Stolz and Austrian Martin Konrad in the second of two Mercedes-AMG GT3’s run by the Haupt Racing Team.
Looking ahead to his debut in the GT World Challenge in Mercedes AMG, Al Faisal ‘was hopeful of gaining maximum experience’ while competing in one of the biggest grids in world of racing.
The 23-year-old said: “The decision to move into the GT World Challenge was a result of extensive planning. It certainly has come a bit early than what I expected but the series was always what I was looking to compete.
“It is one of the toughest GT series in the world and I am proud to be one of the possible two drivers and teams from Arab region that will take part in 2022. Flying the Oman flag in some of the world’s best known circuits during the series is definitely a high point in my young career.”
“With a grid of over 50 cars and the world’s best automotive brands getting their best machines and drivers, my debut year will a big learning curve. The competition is extremely difficult and we will take each race as it comes in our class (Silver Cup).
Al Faisal announced himself as a rising star on the regional circuit in 2018, when he won the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title and then extended his dominance by claiming the overall title for the second time in a row in 2019.
In 2021, following a year lost due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Omani proved his credentials as a promising endurance racer this season with an overall third in the 2021 International GT Open despite missing one round due to illness. Out of the 12 races he competed in 2021, he won two and took eight podium finishes underlying his potential at the top level.
Al Faisal said: “The experience I gained during my participation in the International GT Open will hold me in good stead ahead despite the series being vastly different. We expect over 50 cars on the grid in four classes – Pro, Silver, Pro-Am and Gold.”
Al Faisal will team up with another young talented driver from Germany, Schiller. The 24 year old has to his credit a race win in Blancpain GT Series – Sprint Cup Silver Cup in 2017. He has the experience of competing in GT World Challenge in the past two seasons. Schiller has 21 wins under his belt from more than 150 races.
Jefferies is the senior most driver in the team. The 27 year old has also competed in more than 150 races so far and notched up 28 wins. Among the major highlight is the runner-up finish in the 2020 GT World Challenger Europe Sprint Cup Powered by AWS – Silver Cup. He also finished second in the Asian Le Mans Series in GT-Am class earlier this year.
Al Faisal also has entered more than 150 races in his young career and has 17 wins and 37 podium finishes to his credit so far. “The GT World Challenge is an exceptionally high platform where I look forward to learning and improving with each session. This year, our focus is on the top-3 positions in the Silver Cup class. It will be tough but we’re up for the challenge,” he said.
GT World Challenge Europe schedule:
April 1-3: Imola, Italy
June 3-5: Circuit Paul Ricard 1,000km, France
June 21-22: Test days, 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium
July 28-21: 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium
September 2-4: Hockenheim, Germany
September 30-October 2: Barcelona, Spain