Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal are ready for a spectacular title showdown when the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East roars back into action at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on Friday.
Both drivers are planning all-out attack in a bid to secure victory in each of the three races to be run within six hours on the most dramatic day yet for the Porsche one-make series.
Six-point championship leader Salman knows that if he hits his target he will have a virtually unassailable advantage to take into the final three rounds of the season at Dubai Autodrome the following weekend.
But defending champion Abdulaziz, who won nine out of 12 rounds on his way to the title last season, feels a big Friday in Abu Dhabi could put him back in pole position for the grand finale in Dubai on April 15-16.
“The only way to approach three races in a day is to go flat out as I need to gain maximum points,” he said. “By the time we get to Dubai I’d like to be ahead of Salman, or at least level, which is where I will be if I can push him into second place in each of the races.
“It’s going to be quite demanding because the races are basically sprints and you have to give 100 per cent from the start. I don’t know what’s going to happen as we haven’t had three races in a day before. It’s something new for everyone. I’ve been trying to keep in shape for the past six months. I’ve never trained for three races in a single day, but this all adds to the thrill of racing and I’m ready for it.”
Sheikh Salman is eager to shut out the Saudi’s title challenge on a circuit which has been kind to him. He won the first ever race at Yas Marina in November 2009 and also scored his first victory in the Porsche GT3 Cup series there last season.
“My target is three wins, which would allow me to take a lead of at least 12 points to Dubai,” he said. “It’s going to be a big challenge and basically it reminds me of a 24 hours race where you have to jump in the car several times in the day to do your stint and in between spend a lot of time in the pits.
“I can’t wait to get back in the car. With three races in a day there’s going to be a lot of adrenalin. They’re short races and it’s flat out from the start. There’s a lot of points on the table and we’ll all be aiming to get the maximum. It will be tough, but I want to win the championship and that will drive me.”
While the top two in the championship are the only drivers to win a round of the series so far this season, both acknowledge the threat from Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi, teenager Fahad Algosaibi and another Saudi driver, Bandar Alesayi.
Spectators will get the chance to meet the drivers at an autograph session at Yas Marina Circuit on Friday. Tickets are on sale now at www.yasmarinacircuit.com or by calling 800 YAS (927). General Admission tickets are available for AED 25, with children aged 12 and under free of charge.
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
1. Sheikh Salman – targeting three wins at Yas Marina Circuit
2. Prince Abdulaziz – aiming for a big Friday in Abu Dhabi
3. Khaled Al Qubaisi – a threat to the top two