The stage is set for a classic battle of wits as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East reaches a critical point at Bahrain International Circuit this weekend.
Back-to-back races within 24 hours could see Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa take control of the series, or alternatively lose the advantage he currently holds over Saudi Arabia’s defending champion, Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi and Saudi Bandar Alesayi are waiting to capitalise on any mistakes or misfortunes as the top two in the series both go flat out for a double victory.
Sheikh Salman heads into Round 7 of the 12-round championship tomorrow (Friday) leading Abdulaziz by six points after the two drivers recorded three race wins each in the first half of the season.
Should he come out on top, and win again in Round 8 on Saturday, the Bahraini will be well on his way to the championship with just four more rounds remaining.
However, Prince Abdulaziz is determined not to let that happen, and successive victories for him this weekend would increase the tension for the final two double race programmes in Bahrain on March 25-26 and at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit the following week.
“We really have all the ingredients for a classic two days of racing,” said Walter Lechner, the former Le Mans race star whose Lechner Racing organisation runs the GT3 Cup series for Porsche Middle East and Africa.
“The gap between the top five drivers has narrowed considerably this season, as we saw during the previous two rounds in Saudi. There is little to choose between them in terms of lap times, and that is reflected by some of the close battles we’ve had this season. Whoever claims pole position has a crucial advantage, so there’s a lot of pressure during qualifying sessions and this all adds to the excitement.”
While four of the top five contest the podium places, with teenager Fahad Algosaibi sidelined by a broken hand, Al Qubaisi’s Abu Dhabi team mate, Musaed Al Murar, looks to build on an almost perfect record as one of the newcomers to the Porsche GT3 Cup series this season.
The highest placed rookie in each of the first five rounds, Al Murar was finally headed by Bahrain’s Sheikh Hamad Al Khalifa in Round 6 at Reem International Circuit outside Riyadh last month. His rivals at the weekend again include the UAE’s Ibrahim Salloum.
Fawaz Algosaibi, father of Fahad, returns to action and will be aiming to boost his challenge in the Mobil 1 Trophy for drivers over the age of 45, although Germany’s Johannes Waimer is in a strong position to take the title.
Championship positions after six rounds
1. Salman Bin Rashid Al Khalifa (BAH) 110pts
2. Abdulaziz Al Faisal (KSA) Al Faisal Racing Team 104pts
3. Khaled Al Qubaisi (UAE) tolimit Arabia 98pts
4. Fahad Algosaibi (KSA) ClassicArabia Racing 85pts
5. Bandar Alesayi (KSA) 80pts
6. Musaed Al Murar (UAE) tolimit arabia 57pts
7. Ibrahim Salloum (UAE) Abu Dhabi Falcon Racing 49pts
8. Johannes Waimer (GER) 37pts
9. Fawaz Algosaibi (KSA) ClassicArabia Racing 27pts
10. Alain Muraour (F) 25pts
Mobil 1 Trophy (Over 45s)
1. Johannes Waimer (GER) 110pts
2. Alain Muraour (F) 92pts
3. Fawaz Algosaibi (KSA) ClassicArabia Racing 74pts