Muscat: Exciting 18-year-old Arab racing driver Al Faisal Al Zubair is targeting a successful start to his maiden campaign in a closed-wheel Porsche GT3 car at Bahrain International Circuit this coming weekend, when he proudly flies the flag for Oman in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
The Omani racer, who piloted a Formula 3 single-seater this year in the UK in the BRDC British F3 Championship, makes the switch to Porsche power for the 12 round Middle East series which gets underway on Friday and Saturday.
During pre-season testing in Bahrain this past weekend, Al Faisal made a suitably strong impression on his first time at the track – and only his second ever run behind the wheel of a Porsche – with the sixth fastest time overall.
Lapping fifth quickest on Saturday, less than 0.5 seconds shy of second place on the times, the Omani went on to lap within six tenths of a second of the outright pace on Sunday and just 0.4 seconds outside the coveted top three.
“I’m very pleased with how the test went,” said Al Faisal. “We did a test in a Porsche in Brno that was good, but I wasn’t sure how things would go coming back to the Middle East but we did a good job. We had a lot of running, five hours on the first day and four hours on day two, so there was a lot of preparation for next weekend.
“I got to grips with the car, the track and the tyres and to be only six tenths off Dennis Olsen, who is a Porsche Junior and knows the track, was good. I’m very pleased to have ended the second day P6, especially as the top five guys have all raced in Europe or the UK and I have no Porsche experience.”
Al Faisal’s move to the 460bhp Porsche 911 GT3 from the BRDC British F3 single-seater marks a big change for the Omani, with huge differences in weight, braking, cornering speeds and driving style, but his transition thus far has been seamless.
“There are a lot of differences between the Porsche and the British F3 car I’ve raced this year, there is barely any aero compared to the F3 so the braking and high-speed corners are much different,” he explained.
“It’s a big change but I am quite a smooth driver and I think the Porsche rewards that.
“I’m definitely aiming to win the GCC Rookie category, that’s a realistic goal I think, and hopefully the Silver category as well but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. At the end of the day, next weekend will be my first races in the Porsche but with testing being better than expected we’ll be aiming for some big results.”
Running across six events, with two races at each, the 2016-2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will travel from Bahrain next weekend to Dubai Autodrome in December and will then remain in Dubai for the third race weekend in January.
Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi will host the fourth event of the campaign in February, before a return to Bahrain for the final two race meetings in March and April – the finale on April 15 and 16 running as part of the FIA Formula One World Championship weekend.
Al Faisal’s debut in the Porsche category will mark a return for the Omani flag to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East for the first time in four years, his mentor Ahmad Al Harthy having competed in the 2011-2012 season.