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Hack second rookie as Oliphant wins historic 100th race of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East

South Africa’s Saul Hack finished second rookie and tenth overall in the 100th race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome as part of the UAE National Day series. The race was won by Great Britain’s Tom Oliphant, with Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair second and Germany’s Wolfgang Triller third.

The landmark centennial race is the combined result of a special partnership between Porsche and Lechner Racing who committed to deliver the first and only professional motorsport series in region nearly a decade ago. The championship is credited with introducing the highest standards of racing to the Middle East as proven again today.

For Hack, the strength of the weekend’s results including a sixth place in his first ever race at the Dubai Autodrome signal positive sign of progress in this his debut season. The Johannesburg driver will be encouraged and optimistic for the remainder of the championship when it returns in 2018.

Speaking in Dubai after the race Saul Hack said: ““I hoped today would have gone a little better based on my performance yesterday and was determined to finish higher in the overall standings. I have to remember that these things do not come overnight and although I am getting used to the car more and more and I feel that I am improving with every race. I also must not forget that in racing anything can happen. There are so many quick drivers out there, and there are also drivers like Magnus Oehman who are almost impossible to pass as their defending is so strong.“I have a lot to work on but I take confidence from knowing the Dubai Autodrome now. With the next round being back here again in the new year, I have high hopes of finishing in a strong position. I’m already looking forward to it.”

Victory by Oliphant in the second race of the weekend came by the tightest of margins. A mere 0.707 seconds separated Oliphant from regional hero Al Zubair following a colossal duel over 14 intense laps. It was the sweet revenge and a reversal of the previous day’s result. But it was never comfortable for Oliphant. He was forced to defend throughout as Al Zubair charged in the closing laps yet he held on for a cherished triumph.

Speaking after the 100th race of the series, Tom Oliphant said: “I’m really pleased, and to win the 100th race in the championship is a real honour. We now move on with the championship lead going into the winter break and hope to come back to Dubai in the new year just as strong!”

The win for Oliphant is his second victory in the opening four races of the twelve race championships and extends his lead in the drivers’ standings to 6 points over Al Zubair.

The historic 100th race has come courtesy of staging 9 consecutive seasons and featured an international grid of 17 elite drivers from 9 countries, including Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden alongside local stars from Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

A large crowd enjoyed the engrossing action which descended throughout the field. Behind Triller, Dutch star Charlie Frijns picked up his second fourth placed finish of the weekend. Fifth place went to French rookie Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and the top six positions were completed by Britain’s Glynn Geddie.

The impact of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been huge, accelerating the sport regionally and globally by offering a pathway to the top level of the sport for regional drivers. The 100th race typified the growing strength of the successful development program that is transforming the sport locally.

Young drivers from the region are amongst the brightest stars emerging with notable performances from Team Bahrain’s Ali Al Khalifa (11th), Saudi’s Mohammad Al Saud (12th) Oman’s Khalid Al Wahaibi (14th), who all reached the podium in their respective categories.

At the end of the special 100th race, Walter Lechner said: “I am humble and proud to witness our 100th race. Tom is a worthy winner. But I honestly feel the most satisfying aspect of this moment is the fact that the sport is winning new hearts and minds. The energy and momentum behind the championship feels unstoppable. These are special days.

“We have more drivers from more countries than ever before. Firm foundations have been established over many years and the result is a new breed of regional stars that hold every quality required to succeed in racing. It’s been a wonderful experience and journey to get to this landmark. But as the 100th race proved, we are accelerating towards even greater milestones in the future.”

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East now enters a short winter break before concluding the remainder of the season in 2018. The series returns to Dubai on 26th – 27th January 2018, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, 2nd – 3rd February 2018. 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.

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