ABU DHABI: Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair edged ever closer to a second successive Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title by finishing first overall in the second race at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The win means that the Walter Lechner Racing driver edged even further ahead of Turkey’s Berkay Besler in the Drivers’ Championship heading into the final five races in the series in March. This was despite his GT3 suffering tyre pressure issues in the latter stages of the race. Al Zubair has now regained the 41-point lead in the series with which he started the racing weekend.
Besler finished the race in second place after initial race winner Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg was handed a five-second post-race time penalty for a track limits violation that cost him the potential win. Leon Koehler snatched fourth and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer claimed fifth.
Khalid Al Wahaibi qualified in seventh and finished in a similar position. The Omani retains fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship. Team Oman, meanwhile, takes a giant 189-point lead over Team Sweden to Bahrain in the Team Championship.
Al Zubair said: “We had a problem with the ignition in the coil. We had a bit of a leak in the engine. That affected us yesterday, but we were focused for today. In qualifying we were two-tenths off and, in the race, it’s another win. We were close with Dylan. He drove a really good race, but he cut the track a bit. I am very happy with another win.
“It’s a different strategy with the engineers and the mechanics. For us, we usually have a fast beginning of the race and Dylan has it in the end. It showed there, but we took advantage of Dylan’s mistake to take the win.”
Al Wahaibi added: “We started P7 and had a bad first lap and that cost me quite a lot. From then on, we just had to work forwards and overtake Michael de Quesada, who got passed at the start. That cost me a lot of time and the others were able to pull away. When I got passed Michael, we were quite fast and I began to close on Saul (Hack), but the gap was too big and we had to settle for seventh.”
The outcome of the second qualifying session on Saturday was a carbon copy of the first in terms of the positioning of the top three. Dylan Pereira claimed his second pole of the weekend with a best tour of 2min 11.176sec, but that was a mere 0.241 seconds faster than the best lap set by Al Zubair.
Besler was again third quickest, Koehler and Simmenauer rounded off the top five and Al Wahaibi qualified in seventh place behind Saul Hack with a best run of 2min 12.194sec.
“Qualifying was an improvement from Friday,” said Al Wahaibi. “Time-wise, our position stayed the same and I qualified P7. We had a strong lap at the end but, coming into the hotel section, we made a mistake. It’s such a long lap here at Yas Marina with 22 corners, it is quite easy to make a mistake. We need to avoid those mistakes because it compromises us quite a lot.”
Action in the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East resumes with three races at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain on March 8-9.
Standings after Round 4:
1. Al Faisal Al Zubair (OMN) 263pts, 2. Berkay Besler (TUR) 222pts,
3. J.B. Simmenauer (FRA) 178pts, 4. Michael de Quesada (USA) 177pts, 5. Khalid Al Wahaibi (OMN) 173pts, 6. Saul Hack (RSA) 164pts, 7. Leon Koehler (DEU) 131pts, 8. Christoffer Bergström (SWE) 129pts, 9. Isa Al Khalifa (BAH) 119pts, 10. Magnus Oehman (SWE) 118pts
Team Championship – Standings after Round 4:
1. Team Oman 436pts, 2. Team Sweden 247pts, 3. Team Bahrain 218pts