PAUL RICARD, France: Oman’s Al Faisal al Zubair, Germany’s Fabian Schiller and Zimbabwe’s Axcil Jeffries sealed a stunning victory in the Silver category and finished a superb seventh overall at the six-hour Paul Ricard 1000 km, round two of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS. They now lead the prestigious endurance series by two points.
The trio teamed up to drive a Mercedes-AMG GT3 running under the Al Manar Racing by HRT banner for the second time and held third place for long periods before moving up to take the lead and the eventual win in the latter stages of the demanding race on the French circuit.
Al Zubair said: “It was a very good race, with P7 overall and P1 in Silver. This is definitely something to be very proud of. It’s our second race in the championship and, with such experienced drivers and 18 Pro line-ups, it’s definitely a special result for us. We are happy and it’s a great way to go into the next round at Spa. We are excited for that.”
The trio had qualified the Mercedes in third place for the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS round that started at 18.00 hrs and finished at midnight. Al Zubair took the wheel for the first stint and the Omani stayed out on the track for the first two hours of the race, the talented youngster holding fourth after 19 laps and moving back up to third after 27 laps and just under an hour of the race.
By the end of the first hour, he was out in front in the Silver category, before dropping back to third after 42 laps and around 80 minutes of the race. The Mercedes maintained third through the driver change, where Al Zubair was replaced by Jeffries, who also maintained third behind the Attempto Racing Audi and the Akkodis ASP Mercedes through 102 laps and three and a half hours of the race.
Schiller took over for the final stint and the German was able to move to the front heading into the final hour, with 150 laps on the board and the Akkodis ASP Mercedes a mere 7.652 seconds behind in second place and the Team WRT Audi a further 11 seconds adrift.
Schiller extended the gap to 10.562 seconds after 158 laps and reached the chequered flag after 176 laps to secure the win.
The Al Manar Racing trio had finished fourth in the Silver category in the free practice session, with a fastest lap of 1min 55.544 sec putting them a mere 0.624 sec off the fastest time set by Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, Benjamin Goethe and Thomas Neubauer in their Team WRT Audi R8 LMS.
Al Zubair, Schiller and Jeffries faired better in the pre-qualifying session and a lap of 1min 54.902 sec put them second in the Silver category behind Marius Zug, Nicolas Scholl and Alex Aka in their Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS.
The all-important three qualifying sessions took place on Saturday morning. Michele Beretta, Yuki Nemoto and Benja Hites topped the Silver times in Q1 with a best tour of 1min 54.500 sec in their VSR Lamborghini Huracan. Al Zubair, Schiller and Jeffries were classified in fourth with a best run of 1min 54.859 sec.
The Al Manar Racing trio were down in eighth in the Q2 session with a lap of 1min 54.750 sec, with Konsta Lappalainen, Tuomas Tujula and Stuart White topping the Silver category times in an Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini.
Simmenauer, Goethe and Neubauer ran fastest in Q3 and the third fastest lap of 1 min 54.304 sec put Al Zubair, Schiller and Jeffries up to third in the session.
With the lap times combined from the three qualifying sessions, the Al Manar Racing Mercedes qualified in third in the Silver category behind the Team WRT Audi and the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini. They were also classified in a highly respectable 13th place on the 53-car grid.
The 24 Hours of Spa takes place on July 28-31.
2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe
Silver Championship — current positions:
1. Al Faisal al Zubair/Axcil Jeffries/Fabian Schiller 43 pts
2. Benjamin Goethe/Thomas Neubauer/Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer 41 pts
3. Thomas Drouet/Tommaso Mosca/Casper Stevenson 24 pts
4. Louis Proctor/Finlay Hutchinson/Diego Menchaca 23 pts
5. Aurelian Panis/Cesar Gazeau/Nicolas Baert 21 pts