Bahrain: Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair drew the curtain on a second successive victorious campaign in the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East with second place in a dramatic last race of the season at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit.
Al-Zubair managed to lead until well over half distance after a great pass on polesitter and Porsche GT3 champion of the United Kingdom, Tio Ellinas. However, an accident involving the Bahraini driver Sheikh Isa bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa and South Africa’s Saul Hack forced a yellow flag situation. They came together at turn one and debris was scattered on the track. The safety car was deployed while the debris was removed and the green flag was raised for action to resume on the ninth of 10 laps.
Al-Zubair ceded the advantage to Turkey’s Berkey Besler at the restart and the championship runner-up held on to claim the win by the narrowest of margins – 0.197 seconds!
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer crossed the line in third, Dylan Pereira was fourth and Leon Koehler was fifth. Al-Wahaibi had to settle for seventh position after a couple of issues that were not his fault affected his on-track performance. The youngster had the consolation of finishing fourth in the championship after Hack’s accident.
The duo had lined up in second and eighth for the final race with Tio Ellinas on pole and trying to thwart Al-Zubair’s goal of finishing another successful championship-winning season with a win.
Al-Zubair said: “I was leading and had quite a good lead when the safety car came out. Going off track, Berkay was able to pass and then I showed that I was pushing and managed to catch back. I think one more lap would have allowed us to win. I wanted to win the last race, but it doesn’t matter I guess.”
Al-Wahaibi added: “I started the race in eighth place after a mistake on my second qualifying lap two days ago. I had quite a good start and maintained position but, sadly, on lap two a car in front, Dylan Pereira, went into the gravel and threw gravel into my radiator that put a hole in it. I had a lot of alarms going off in the car for engine temperature and water level and I figured that the radiator was broken.
“The water was pouring on to my tyres and I had a lot of under steer as a result. This made it hard to focus on my lines. We tried to deal with the issue as best we could. I was struggling a lot, especially coming through the left-hand corners with the water leaking on to the tyres. Even with that I maintained my starting position and, after the safety car came out, I knew we could come away with a few more positions. I went alongside Dylan Pereira after the oasis straight. He didn’t see me on the inside and made contact, which send me wide into the corner and I lost a place. It was a tough race from lap two. Nothing I could have done to avoid it. Now I look forward to the new season in Europe and all the preparations for that.”
Al-Zubair’s second consecutive Middle East championship is the first in the 10-year history of the prestigious series. Al Zubair’s tally of 8 wins, 7 pole positions, 10 fastest laps and 13 podiums, drew praise from the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East founder and organiser, Walter Lechner of Lechner Racing, “Al Zubair is a true example of the talent that exists in the Middle East. Having first joined the series in 2016, his improvement is outstanding. Three years on, Al Faisal is now a double champion and has raced in Europe against the best Porsche GT3 Cup drivers. We are incredibly proud of his achievements and hope this empowers young Arab talent in the region to step on to the tracks with us and develop careers in motorsport.”