Zooming ahead

May 02, 2017

Sitting in front of Oman’s motorsports legends, Hamed al Wahaibi and Ahmad al Harthy, the tall, fair-looking teenager, wearing a black T-shirt, appeared to be more of an enthusiastic youngster. But then, anyone could be mistaken while meeting the 19 year old Al Faisal al Zubair for the first time.

Behind the childish looks of this talented Omani circuit racer is a man full of ambitions and passion for racing. And it is not that these are dreams of a teenager.

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Al Faisal is the youngest motorsports star of Oman and his recent success in the competitive Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Series where he clinched a grand double – silver category and GCC Rookie top honours – on his maiden season has taken the motorsports world by surprise.

The prodigious talent is not one to sit on his laurels and in a major step that may well chart the course of his racing career, announced the launch of Team FZ Racing at the Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort and Spa on Tuesday.

Al Faisal’s team will be competing in the world-class 2017 Porsche Monil 1 Supercup race series, a support race on the Formula One calendar. The first race of the series will be on the Catalunya F1 circuit in Barcelona, Spain from May 12-14.

In his remarks to Muscat Daily , Al Faisal said, “It is a series I am looking forward to learn a lot.

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“The reason for opting a top-class series which features champions of Porsche series in various counties is to enhance my racing career by learning from the best.

“It is a very challenging series and I believe that it will help me grow as a driver. The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Series was a stunning success on my debut and I now wish to go a notch further up. Hopefully, I will benefit from my participation in the Supercup.”

Driving Al Faisal’s dream will be Lechner Racing, the most successful team in the history of Supercup.

Walter Lechner, founder of Lechner Racing, expressed his pleasure to have found a “special talent” in Al Faisal and said the youngster has in him all the traits to fight it out with the top and experienced racers of the world.

Reflecting on his season so far, Al Faisal said, “It has been an amazing journey since November and to clinch the silver category was the icing on the cake after my title win in the GCC Rookie class of the Porsche GT3 Cup.

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“The GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has provided a perfect platform for me to launch the next stage of my career with Porsche cars.”

Having lifted the two trophies at the Sakhir Formula One circuit in front of a packed crowd and Formula One stars Al Faisal's new campaign will take him to many more F1 venues starting with the Barcelona GP.

The Supercup race precedes the F1 race at all venues and with a TV audience in millions, the switch to Supercup is also expected to push Oman on the world map.

After the opener in Barcelona on May 14, the eight-leg Supercup races will proceed to Monaco followed by Spielberg, Silverstone, Budapest, Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Mexico over the next few months with the finale in Mexico on October 29.

“I am excited to be one of the three teams from the Lechner Racing Team stables. They are the most successful team in the Supercup and what better exposure and experience can one think of than to be part of Lechner Racing.

“It is a big learning curve and I will take each race as it comes and seize the opportunity to drive against the best and hone my skills,” said Al Faisal.

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Big boost to Oman motorsports: Ahmad

Ahmad al Harthy, Oman’s endurance racing star, who has been a role model for Al Faisal, wished the teenager all the best.

“It is a tough call from him but Al Faisal is grounded. He has termed his entry into the Porsche Supercup as a learning curve and this is very important.

“It will be a historic moment when two drivers will compete simultaneously on two
different Formula One circuit. While I will be in Silverstone, UK for my Blancpain Cup Endurance Series, Al Faisal will be racing in Barcelona. It was something I have dreamt for long.

“I hope this is the start of more success for Oman motorsports and it would be a proud experience to hear the national anthem being played on some of the iconic F1 circuits,” said Ahmad, who recently won the Pro-Am title in the opening Blancpain Cup at the historic Monza circuit in Italy.

Hamed al Wahaibi, Oman’s first international rallying star, wished Al Faisal all the best and said he is very proud of Omani youngsters who are making a mark in motorsports.

“Al Faisal has the talent that he has proved recently with his success in Bahrain where he won the race and finished with a grand double.

“He is a racer who will make Oman proud in the time to come,” said Wahaibi, who is also credited to mentor young go-karting star Shihab al Habsi.

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Al Faisal has the potential to be a world-class driver: Lechner

Walter Lechner, the founder of Lechner Racing Team, is a father-figure in the world of motorsports.

The experienced Austrian, who brought the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Series to the region in 2005, was bowled over by Al Faisal al Zubair’s determination and devotion to the sport.

“One does not come often across such passionate youngsters. I was impressed when Al Faisal contacted me in the middle of the night one fine day asking him to be given a chance to test drive for our team. It woke me up as here was a driver keen to make a mark.

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“We gave him an opportunity and he proved his mettle in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Series where he won the double. His exploits in the silver category and the win in the penultimate race of the season surprised us,” said Lechner.

“The Supercup is a new challenge for Al Faisal and it will be tough.

“But he has the talent in him to learn and improve, getting into the series at this young age. The good thing is that he has been exposed to some of the drivers and will team up with young Portuguese driver Dylan Perreira.

“I am sure he will return from Supercup series for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge next season as a contender for the overall title. In three years time, Al Faisal has the
potential to become a world-class driver. I can see a star in the making from the region,” said Lechner.