SAKHIR (BAHRAIN) – March 9 – Oman’s team of talented racers, Al Faisal Al Zubair and Khalid al Wahaibi, finished on the podium for the first of three races in the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Sakhir in Bahrain on Friday. Al Zubair was positioned in the second place while Al Wahaibi finished third for the first time as he had qualified in pole position for the opener on Friday. The race was won by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer leaving behind Al Zubair by 3.774 seconds. Both drivers are running under the Walter Lechner Racing banner and showed dominant display of performances in the 14-lap race.
The 20-year-old Al Zubair, succeeded to extend his lead to 49 points than Turkey’s Berkay Besler as the runner-up spot position enabled him to add eight points more to a 41-point lead in the previous round. The other racer of Team Oman, Khalid al Wahaibi delivered impressive performances as he was positioned in the third place. He began the day in fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship, a mere four points behind American driver Michael de Quesada. The third position in the race enabled the youngster to move into contention for a top three spot at the end of the season. He trails third-placed Simmenauer by nine points.
Speaking after the race, Al Zubair said, “Despite missing the practice in Bahrain when my flight from London was cancelled, I am glad to complete the race in the second place. Simmenauer drove an amazing race and took a well-deserved victory. For me, I was just behind and maintained my position. It was a good amount of points for me.”
Al Zubair affirmed that his goal is to keep getting as many points as possible. “I am starting the second race in fourth position. I think it’s a decent position. We still have qualifying for the third race to come.” he added.
The other Omani racer, Al Wahaibi, expressed his joy on attaining the podium finish in the championship in race one and a first in the Porsche. “It’s been a great weekend so far. I had pole in the first qualifying and an overall podium. I started the race in first, had a bad start and wheel spun so much”. He added.
“Simmenauer had a great start and moved ahead of me and Al Zubair. From then on, it was about maintaining the gap with the front. I made too many mistakes on the first two laps and that enabled them to pull away. I got stuck in and did my own race to the end. Without those mistakes it would have been better, but that is what we have to work on now.”
With a potent lap of 2min 02.338sec in first race qualifying, Al Wahaibi began the day in stunning fashion by claiming his second pole position of the campaign, and that was enough to pip Al Zubair by 0.012 seconds. Bahrain’s Isa al Khalifa claimed third spot and series rivals, Simmenauer and Besler, rounded off the top five.
Besler claimed scant revenge in qualifying for the second of the races and the first on Saturday morning with a pole-winning time of 2min 02.123sec. Simmenauer followed the Turk home in second place and Saul Hack rounded off the top three. Al Zubair found himself down in fourth place and Al Wahaibi was seventh of the 16 entrants.
Al Zubair said: “First qualifying was really good. Less than half a tenth behind pole was amazing. Second qualifying was not so great. I made too many mistakes but I am focused on tomorrow.”
Speaking about his qualifying, Al Wahaibi said: “Qualifying one went really well. After testing on Thursday, we knew that pole was possible. I knew if I put my lap together and made no mistakes we could do it. It didn’t feel like an amazing lap but it worked out perfectly for the pole.
“In Q2, I had a good lap until a certain point and someone in front of me ruined my lap and we lost five-tenths as a result of it. These things happen in racing and it’s all about traffic management. Another thing I need to work on.”
Saturday’s race action includes the third of the Porsche qualifying sessions and races two and three, each of 14 laps.