Muscat: The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will celebrate a monumental milestone at the Dubai Autodrome as part of the UAE National Day series this weekend as it hosts the 100th race in the championship’s distinguished history.
An international grid featuring 18 elite drivers from 10 countries, including special guest former baseball legend and racer CJ Wilson from the United States, will compete on December 8 in the 99th race, followed by the landmark centennial fight on December 9.
The highly successful one-make series is credited with supporting professional motor-racing to the Middle East and over the eight consecutive seasons since has dominated the regional motorsport scene. Under the watchful eye of founder and manager, Walter Lechner, new standards have been set and local talent guided onto the world stage to produce an enviable list of past champions.
Its impact has been huge, accelerating the sport regionally and globally by offering a pathway to the top level of the sport for regional drivers, such as Abdulaziz Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia), Zaid Ashkanani (Kuwait) and Al Faisal Al Zubair (Oman).
Now in its ninth season, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East remains the only regional championship backed by a manufacturer and its future looks brighter than ever.
Looking ahead to the special occasion, Walter Lechner said: “It’s remarkable to think that a decade ago the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was just an ambitious vision shared by Porsche and Lechner Racing. Being the first comes with challenges and remaining at the forefront is even tougher but thanks to the support of Porsche, our partners, motorsport federations and race tracks in the region we’re about to celebrate our 100th race. The Middle East needed a professional championship of its own and it has one to be proud of!
“I look forward with great optimism, as I believe the triumphs of the past are going to be overshadowed by successes in the future. The series is stronger than ever and keeps growing. Few can say that and when I see future stars like Bahrain’s teammates Isa S. Al Khalifa and Ali Al Khalifa alongside Oman’s Khalid Al Wahaibi line-up, I know motorsport is in good hands with exciting times ahead. It’s wonderful to be part of that story and legacy.”
As the championship has evolved so has its international reputation, acting as a beacon to attract European stars to the Middle East seeking top-class competition during the winter months. The result is a more competitive grid and a blend of season professionals, veterans and rookies, with Season 9 a testament to this successful expansion.
Chief Executive Officer of Porsche Middle East & Africa FZE, Deesch Papke, added: “To take a courageous vision for motorsport in the Middle East and deliver upon it consistently for nine seasons perfectly represents the Porsche spirit that our brand stands for. The milestone of 100 races is mammoth and is only possible through hard work, passion and commitment, as exemplified by Lechner Racing. I’d like to personally thank Walter for his tremendous efforts and congratulate all drivers, mechanics, and all series’ supporters who have made this achievement possible.
Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair, who is second in the series after the opening round, added: “This championship gave me the opportunity to get the experience I needed to develop as a driver and challenge internationally. I owe much to the years of dedication from Walter Lechner, Porsche and those who have supported this championship.
“I’m directly benefitting from their efforts and am proud to be amongst a new breed of drivers from the region that have emerged from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. I’ve finished third on the podium in the opening two races but nothing would make me happier than standing on the top step of the podium in the centennial race. Although, I know many other drivers will be thinking the same.”
Fans attending this weekend at the Dubai Autodrome will witness drivers battling it out hailing from Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden and the United States as well as local stars from the Middle East region representing Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Race goers will have extra reason to celebrate with the premiere of the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for its first competitive race in the UAE. The car made its Middle East race debut during the opening round in Bahrain, as a support race to the World Endurance Championship.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East consists of six race weekends with 12 races over a period of six months. Following the second round the championship returns to Dubai for Round 3, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for Round 4. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.