Sakhir (Bahrain), March 10 – Oman’s Al Faisal al Zubair kept domination on lead driver’s championship in the second and third races at round five of the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain to finish in fourth and third positions on Saturday. Al Faisal gets a inch closer to the title prior two races left in the series and that to be held as support races of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on March 30-31.
The 20 years old showed a thriller performance in all the three races. The talented Omani racer is close to replicate the ‘dream double’ as he had made history last year by clinching the overall title of the race and close to become the first winner to win the race title for second successive time.
The other racer of Team Oman, Khalid al Wahaibi finished the two races on Saturday in eighth and fifth overall, but the consistent finishes by Al Zubair have netted the Walter Lechner Racing driver another useful haul of championship points and moved him ever closer to a second successive regional title.
Al Zubair started the second day of racing in Bahrain 49 points clear of Turkey’s Berkay Besler in the Drivers’ Championship and third position in the third race behind Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and Besler means he will take a 42-point advantage into the final race meeting at the end of the month, again in Bahrain. Both Besler and Simmenauer won a race apiece on Saturday. After the race, Al Zubair said: “The second race was good. I started in fourth position. I got overtaken to go back to fifth and then, in the race, we had a tough battle with Saul Hack and I overtook him again and finished fourth. I had to minimise the risks for the championship. Fourth was a good result”.
“The final race, I started from pole and was aiming for the win. But my main goal was to finish with some good points. It was going to be difficult to seal the championship this weekend. That was never my goal. I think if we had clear space on the track we would have won the race. The two in front (Simmenauer and Besler) were fighting and it wasn’t worth me risking points for the long-term.”
Al Wahaibi said: “Race two, I started P7 after the disappointing issues we had in Q2 being blocked by an opponent. We knew we could have competed a bit forward, but there was an issue with the front end. I managed to stick with Al Faisal and Saul until the middle of the race. I decided to drop off towards the end and Isa (al Khalifa) managed to get passed with three laps to go.
“We started the third race in P5. It was an improvement from the other one. We know the mistake we had made. We decided to get stuck in behind Saul. I followed the leaders through the middle towards the end of the race. When the leaders started to fight it enabled me to get a bit closer. It’s about getting that little more experience. It was a great race, but I still have a lot to learn.”
Al Zubair wrapped up the weekend’s qualifying sessions with pole position for the third and final race with a best lap of 2min 01.851sec. That put the Omani in the perfect position to see off the challenge from second-placed Simmenauer and title rival Besler. Al Wahaibi qualified fifth with a best run of 2min 02.877sec.
Al Zubair said: “Qualifying was really good. I was happy with it. It was the lap record, so very happy with that.
Al Wahaibi said: “Q3 was pretty tough. On my first lap I locked the fronts into turn one. So I knew I had to use that lap to warm up the tyres. By the time I went for my fast lap, the rears were too hot and I had a bit of trouble and finished P5.”
The series reaches a conclusion with two races in Bahrain on March 30-31.
Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East – positions after round 5:
1. Al Faisal al Zubair (OMN) 325pts
2. Berkay Besler (TUR) 285pts
3. JB Simmenauer (FRA) 251pts
4 Khalid al Wahaibi (OMN) 224pts
5. Saul Hack (RSA) 219pts