100th race celebration adds extra incentive for drivers
Johannesburg’s Saul Hack has qualified in sixth place on the grid for the first of two races over the weekend at Dubai Autodrome in Round 2 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, as part of the UAE National Day series.
Under perfect conditions on a sun soaked track the emerging South African star set a time of 2:01.181 around the demanded grand prix configuration in the all new 911 GT3 Cup.
Seventeen elite drivers will line-up for two 14-lap races on consecutive days in the new 911 GT3 Cup with more high drama expected around the extremely technical and demanding grand prix configuration of the Dubai Autodrome circuit.
After qualifying in a career best sixth Hack said: “After qualifying went so well I cannot wait to race. It’s a circuit all the drivers love and with the 100th race coming up on Saturday it’s going to be an even more memorable experience.
“There is definitely more of an incentive to make the podium but every driver will be thinking the same. I’m still getting used to the car, the track and the set-up so my tactics will not change.
“After proving to myself and others that I have real speed I’ll look to repeat my performance from the qualifying and take that form into the race. I feel the momentum is with me and confidence is high so I’m aiming for to get on the podium in my category but the series heads into a winter break.For drivers and motorsport fans the introduction of a new Porsche race car and a full grid is a tantalising prospect, especially after a tense yet ultra-competitive opening round staged at the Bahrain International Circuit in mid-November. Only 10 points separate the top three drivers in the overall standings and Saturday’s race in Dubai is poised to hold even greater significance for the winner, as the region’s most successful and professional one-make series will reach a monumental milestone. The second battle of the weekend taking place on Saturday, 8th December, will mark the 100th race in the history of the championship, adding even further motivation for all drivers to finish on a podium position.
Now in its ninth season, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was the first and remains the only regional championship backed by a manufacturer. Its appeal to talented racers in the Middle East and around the world continues to grow, as demonstrated by the line-up this weekend. Half of the drivers will compete in this championship at the Dubai Autodrome for the first time. Championship debutants to also feature in Dubai will travel from as far as France, Germany Scotland, Sweden and South Africa.
Founder and manager of the championship, Walter Lechner, said: “This weekend will be a proud moment for all involved. But for the drivers the focus will remain on strong qualifying sessions, clean starts and trying to reach the podium or collect as many points as possible.
“Each category is very close and I don’t think that will change much throughout the season. There is strength and depth especially from emerging new stars from the region making their debuts. Newcomers, like Oman’s Khalid Al Wahaibi and Bahrain’s Ali Al Khalifa, are quickly becoming very competitive. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will win the race or their category but I can guarantee there will be a host of brilliant battles throughout the grid.”
After two races Tom Oliphant (48 pts) leads the driver standings alongside Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani by six points ahead of Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair. In the silver category Magnus Oehman (28 pts) is two points clear of rival and Swedish countryman Christoffer Bergstroem (26 pts). In the bronze category the region’s new driving stars are absorbed in a captivating fight for supremacy. Khalid Al Wahaibi (23 pts) is nine points ahead of Ali Al Khalifa (14 pts) and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al Saud (13 pts).
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East consists of six race weekends with 12 races over a period of six months. Following the second round the championship returns to Dubai for Round 3, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for Round 4. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.