• Khalid Al-Wahaibi claims first pole position for race two; fourth in race one


Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair continued his remarkable run of form to move up from third on the grid to win the first of three races in the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome on Friday afternoon.

The Omani, who drives for Walter Lechner Racing in both the regional series and the prestigious Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup, found a way passed pole sitter Saul Hack and Leon Koehler to claim a sixth win from seven race starts. Turkey’s Berkey Besler came home in second place in the 16-lap race and Frenchman Jean Baptiste Simmenauer rounded off the podium finishers.

Fresh from securing a first career pole position behind the wheel of a Porsche for race two on Saturday, fellow Omani Khaled Al-Wahaibi finished the opening race in fourth, having qualified in sixth.

Al-Zubair said: “It was all about passing on the first lap. If you take too much time passing, the leader is able to pull away. I moved up to second on the first lap and kept the pressure on the leader after that. I know they keep looking in their mirrors so I use that to my advantage and I managed to overtake on the third lap.”

Al-Wahaibi added: “It was pretty good after our starting position. The top seven were really close in qualifying. I knew it would be a tough race, but I knew that P4 was possible. I had a bit of contact with Leon (Koehler) and that enabled Simmenauer to open up a gap.

“We struggled on the last lap and dropped a few seconds after I lost the car’s front lip and I had a lot of under steer, so I had to finish the race with that in P4. It was a good result for Team Oman. As a team we have now won every race except one.”

Saul Hack was the surprise winner of the first of the qualifying sessions, the South African posting a fastest lap of 1min 37.857sec to edge the win from Koehler. Al-Zubair qualified for the opener in third position with a best run of 1min 3.064sec and Al-Wahaibi was sixth of the 16 entrants and second of the GCC runners.

Al-Wahaibi delivered the goods in Q2 to claim his first career Porsche pole, with Al-Zubair making it an Oman 1-2 and J.B. Simmenauer rounding off the podium positions. Berkay Besler and Michael de Quesada were fourth and fifth.

Al-Zubair said: “We made a mistakes and qualified for the two races in third and second positions. I feel like some of the laps were good but the qualifying did not go our way.”

Al-Wahaibi added: “I knew we were quite quick from testing, but I didn’t manage to do the time I wanted in the last test. I locked up the tyres. So I had to come into Q1 trying to guess what the track would be like. It’s so close between P1 and P7.

“One mistake and it punishes you and I was sixth in Q1. I knew that I had to make up time on the three corners in the third sector. I knew what I had to do in Q2 and, when I came across the line, it was a good time and I was not sure if it was pole. But it’s the first pole for me in the Porsche and I am more than happy.”

The third qualifying session takes centre stage at 08.00hrs on Saturday morning and the hectic day’s action continues with the second race at 10.35hrs and race three from 13.15hrs.

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