Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman chose the perfect occasion to deliver his first back-to-back race win of the year, and showed the world of motorsport how the Middle East closes a racing championship. The 19-year-old Omani who secured the overall title in Race 1 of the weekend, ended his season perfectly with a second win in front of the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix crowd.
The grid lined up for the final time this season and had fans on the edge of their seats. From the start, the front six drivers were evenly matched and raced into the corner side-by-side. Isa A. Al Khalifa of Bahrain came out in front with Al Zubair, Isa S. Al Khalifa also of Bahrain and Dutchman Charlie Frijns closely behind. Al Zubair and Isa A. Al Khalifa took it in turns to overtake one another, before Al Zubair pulled away in lap four where he stayed until the chequered flag on the race and the season was waved.
Speaking after winning both races in the final round of the championship, Al Zubair commented: “This was my first race in the championship without any pressure, and it felt amazing. Usually you fight for wins with the title in your mind, but today I just raced and I really enjoyed it.
“I didn’t have a great start; Isa A. Al Khalifa passed me in turn one and he was actually really quick, driving well throughout the race. My pace picked up over the next few laps and I was able to overtake him. I opened up a gap and finished in first. It’s not been a bad weekend – double pole, double win and a championship title under my belt. I’m going back to Oman a very proud and happy man.”
Founder and organiser of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, Walter Lechner of Lechner Racing, commented on Al Zubair’s win, adding: “It is not easy to win a championship. You need to be consistent and win your races, so undoubtedly Al Zubair is a worthy champion. We have had some great local talent in the championship this year, including Al Zubair, and I hope it encourages others to join us. It’s nice to see a fourth local champion, first from Oman, to win the championship and show young, local drivers can beat the internationals!”
“When a season comes to an end it’s always sad, because it’s over. This year was a very special year, marking our 100th race, but we have a 10th season to look ahead to and we have some special plans in mind. Our aim is not only to grow the grid, but look at expanding the number of races too. We’ll be busy making this happened over the summer months, and be back in the Middle East in November. Watch this space.”
A similar story to Race 1 of the weekend, drivers in the middle of the grid were battling hard and a few touches occurred. Porsche Junior Champion Daniel Lu and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer made contract in lap one, as did Mohammed Al Saud of Bahrain and Magnus Oehman of Sweden. As the last race of the season, drivers were pushing hard for vital category points.
Khalid Al Wahaibi of Oman was one of those drivers, and he managed to secure the Silver Category due to his impressive movements up the grid. Al Wahaibi started in 11th, but manoeuvred his way up to finish in fourth and take the silverware. British driver Mark Radcliffe kept Mohammed Al Saud from Saudi Arabia in his rear-view mirror to clinch the Bronze Category title and Frijns Structural Steel Middle East walked away with the Team Category, thanks to a third-place overall podium finish from Charlie Frijns.
The GCC category and Gold Categories also went back to Oman with Al Zubair, and Al Wahaibi also picked up the Rookie Championship trophy, so it was a great season for Oman all round.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will return in November 2018 for its tenth season, seeing local and international talent take place across the Middle East’s racing tracks. To find out more about the championship, visit http://www.gt3me.com