Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair starts Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title in dream fashion with Dubai win
Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair begins the defence of his Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title in dream fashion with two pole positions and victory in the first of three races at the Dubai Autodrome on Friday.
The Omani mastered the 5.39km circuit to good effect to get his title defence off to the perfect start and Omani team-mate Khaled Al-Wahaibi finished sixth in race one. The result gave the Sultanate of Oman something extra to celebrate on Oman National Day with maximum points for Team Oman in the Teams’ Championship.
This was the first of 16 championship races that culminate with the official support race finale at the 2019 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir on March 29-31, 2019.
Defending champion and race winner Al-Zubair saw off the challenge from both Tio Ellinas and Zaid Ashkanani to take the win. He said: “It was a fantastic first day of the season for us. It could not have gone any better with double pole and a win. It’s good mentally to start the season in a good way and I am looking forward to the season. I will try and manage the lead. If Tio (Ellinas) had come too close, I would not have put up too much of a fight. He is not going to be here for the whole championship. I am thinking long term.
“I really feel honoured to win the race against Tio and Zaid Ashkanani, who is one of the top Super Cup drivers. It’s even sweeter when you know the pedigree of the drivers you are facing. I guess the fact that it is National Day in Oman gave us some extra power for the weekend. Hopefully it carries on. We must also watch the tyres because we have three sets only for three races and three qualifyings. You cannot mess up because the tyres you use in qualifying, you also use in the race.”
Sixth-placed Khaled Al-Wahaibi added: “I started off pretty well in qualifying. I had a good first lap, but I made a mistake and I qualified in P6 when P3 was in the bag. I started the race in sixth. That made it tough at the start and I struggled with the tyres a bit towards the end and lost a place. We had a good fight with the Turkish driver Berkey Besler, especially in the middle of the race and it was a bit of a struggle with the tyres we had. He managed to get passed me and I decided to stick behind him. The championship is long, so we need to think of the long-term.”
Qualifying sessions also took place on Friday for the first and second races and Al-Zubair was in inspired form to record pole position for both races. The Omani topped the times in the opening session with a best lap of 2min 00.066sec. Tio Ellinas was 0242sec behind in second and Zaid Ashkanani qualified in third. Al-Wahaibi settled for sixth out of the 17 drivers from 13 nations with a best run of 2min 01.048sec.
Al-Zubair broke the two-minute barrier in the second qualifying session with a pole-winning time of 1min 59.310sec. Ellinas and Ashkanani were again in second and third positions but Al-Wahaibi qualified in seventh for the second race with his best tour of 2min 00.082sec.