Al-Faisal Al-Zubair led from start-to-finish to claim victory in race one at round six of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, being held in conjunction with the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, and that enabled the Omani to clinch the championship title with one race to spare.
Despite coming under pressure from Glynn Geddie on the first lap, Al-Zubair held his lead and his nerve to reach the chequered flag 5.024 seconds in front of Bahrain’s Isa Al-Khalifa. China’s Daniel Lu finished third and fellow Omani’s Khalid Al-Wahaibi completed the race in ninth overall and second Rookie.
A delighted Al-Zubair said: “My start was okay and I stayed in the lead and got the win. I am happy for the win and over the moon for the championship. It’s a dream come true, especially to win it at 19. It is something I wanted to do since I was a kid. My lucky number is seven and I won the championship on the Seventh of April. It was amazing to hear the Omani national anthem and to be representing our country and to bring the championship back to Oman for the first time.”
Ninth-placed Al-Wahaibi said: “It was a difficult race today. I started P11. I was not very comfortable with the car and how it was performing. There was nothing we could do about it. This is part of the experience of my first season. A huge congratulations to my fellow countryman and school friend Al-Faisal Al-Zubair for winning the overall championship this season. Hard work has paid off for him. Hopefully there is more success to come for the both of us.”
Al-Zubair claimed pole position in the crucial qualifying session on Friday afternoon with a hot lap of 2min 03.887sec. Glynn Geddie and Charlie Frijns rounded off the top three, but Al-Wahaibi finished the session down in 11th position and behind his rivals for victory in the Silver category.
Fastest laps counted for the starting order for Saturday’s race and the second quickest lap was used to determine the starting order for race two on Sunday. Al-Zubair also earned pole position for race two.
Al-Zubair said: “It was definitely the best place to start. The car did not feel great in practice, but the team did the usual magic and I was very happy with how the car felt for qualifying. P1 for both races was perfect. I was running directly behind the Chinese driver Daniel Lu when he blew his engine. I could see smoke coming up and then an explosion. We had some oil on the car, but everyone was safe and that’s what mattered.”
“It was a different layout for this qualifying because of the F1 weekend,” said Al-Wahaibi. “The car felt pretty good compared to practice. The timing registered a slightly different time to the dash on the car, but I finished in P11. I knew what I needed to do for the championship.”
Bahrain’s Isa Al-Khalifa had topped the times in the first practice session with a fastest lap of 2min 09.508sec. Al-Zubair and Al-Wahaibi had been classified in second and 10th positions.