Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East: Hat-trick of wins
It was a display of total domination by defending series champion Al Faisal al Zubair as he made a clean sweep with a hat-trick of race wins after claiming three pole places in the second round of the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain on Saturday.
Al Faisal, who had won the opening race of the second round on Friday, continued from where he left as he claimed the top spots in both the qualifying races on Saturday morning.
And then in the evening, he stormed to victories in both the races to ensure his overall lead following two wins and a runner-up spot in the opening round in Dubai last month.
It was a solid display by the Walter Lechner Racing star as he beat Michael de Quesada by 7.865 seconds to convincingly take control of the first of the day’s races.
Berkay Besler was third and Leon Koehler rounded off the top four. Sheikh Isa al Khalifa was fifth and second in the GCC category, while Omani Khalid al Wahaibi finished sixth.
Al Faisal started from pole and finished the second of Saturday’s races 0.728 seconds ahead of Besler. American racer de Quesada was third and Khalid finished in an excellent fourth and second among the GCC entrants.
The excellent show by Al Faisal and Khalid led Team Oman to a comfortable lead in the Team Championship over Team Sweden and Team Bahrain.
Al Faisal leads the overall standings with 148 points, a 29-point lead over de Quesada. Khalid climbed to fourth overall with 93, behind Besler (111).
A delighted Al Faisal said, “It was a tough weekend with three races and three qualifying
sessions. That’s a lot of pressure. Qualifying was a lot rougher than the races. In the races, we had it under control. In the last race, the gap was seven-tenths of a second.
“He (Berkay) passed me on the first lap, but I knew I was faster than him and I didn’t want to rush it and cause any accidents. In the end it was a clean sweep and that is very good. It’s been a very good start to the season with six pole spots and five wins. Every session, I learn something and that is a positive, which gives me confidence.”
Khalid said, “Obviously the third race was the best of the weekend and the best of the
season so far. We finished nine seconds off the leader and that is the best so far. I need to work on improving my qualifying. That helps a lot.
“In the third race, as soon as we started qualifying, we were able to pull away from the mid-pack and focus on the leaders. I went up to P4 and dropped back to P6 and managed to cross the line in P4.
“It was a good race and I need to keep on improving and get closer to the top guys. It’s good to end the weekend on a strong note. We were so close to the podium. That is my next step. Hopefully at the next race we will be able to be on the podium.”
Al Faisal claimed pole position in the opening session with a best lap of 2min 02.699sec and that put him 0.251sec in front of de Quesada. Jean-Baptiste Simmenaeur was classified in third place and Besler was fourth. Khalid recorded a best run of 2min 03.489sec and that put the Omani youngster ninth on the grid and third among the GCC drivers.
Al Faisal completed the clean sweep with another pole position. He pushed his GT3 to a best time of 2min 02.306sec and that was 0.392 seconds quicker than the best tour set by de Quesada. Besler and Leon Koehler were third and fourth and Khalid improved to qualify in sixth place and third among the GCC drivers behind Al Khalifa.
Third round action resumes in Dubai, UAE, on January 25-26.
Drivers’ standings [after round two]: 1 Al Faisal al Zubair (Oman, 148 points), 2 Michael de Quesada (US, 119), 3 Berkay Besler (Turkey 111), 4 Khalid al Wahaibi (Oman 93), 5 Saul Hack (South Africa, 91), 6 Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (France 78), 7 Tio Ellinas (Cyprus 71).