Bahrain: Kuwait’s Ahkanani claims narrow Championship lead ahead of final race

Zaid Ahkanani of Kuwait takes the flag in race 1 Friday 7th Mar

Bahrain, Mar 7th 2014 – The fifth season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East will go down to a climatic final race after Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid finished second in an action packed Race 1 of Round 6 at the Bahrain International Circuit, to keep the pressure on series leader Zaid Ahkanani of Kuwait.

For fellow UAE outfit Skydive Dubai Falcons an impressive showing in qualifying and in Race 1 saw them soar up to second in the team standings in what is just their first season in the series. The Emirati duo of Saeed Al Mehairi and Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum are now two points ahead of rivals Saudi Falcons who will be looking to beat their UAE namesakes into the series’ runner up position with just one race to go.

After qualifying in third Clemens Schmid had work to do from the start and fought hard in the early laps to squeeze past Charlie Frijns and secure second. From there the UAE resident had a clear line of sight to Ashkanani but was unable to reel in the Kuwaiti. The result sees the gap between the top two grow only slightly with Ashkanani leading by five points over Schmid.

Speaking after Race 1 Clemens Schmid said, “I wanted the victory today but second place is a good result. We are still very much in the competition and know what must be done tomorrow. Qualifying wasn’t perfect but I made the most of it. Charlie didn’t make it easy for me during the race and by the time I was able to get past him Zaid had opened up quite a big lead which I wasn’t able to close. As I say though, tomorrow is a new day and we have a great opportunity so let’s hope luck is on our side.”

For fellow UAE team Skydive Dubai Falcons, the fourth and sixth place finishes in Race 1 sees them move up to their highest ever position in the team standings, second, two points ahead of Saudi Falcons. Qualifying in fourth place, Saeed Al Mehairi was able to jump up to second place during the race but dropped back down to his original position while Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum qualified eighth and finished sixth.

After the race Saeed Al Mehairi said I am happy with what I achieved today, moving up to second and then defending fourth after dropping back. We suffered a bit with our tyre strategy and will be working on that tomorrow to avoid what happened today but overall a successful race. On the team table we are in the second place now so we have to make sure we secure that tomorrow with a focused drive.”

Race one produced an absorbing encounter with positions changing regularly between the top six. Frijns took full advantage of Ashkanani’s poor start, jumping from second to first in the opening lap with Mehairi moving ahead of the Kuwaiti into second. Ashkanani bided his time until lap seven where he regained, taking advantage of mistakes made by Frijns and Al Mehairi to ensure control of the race.

Once in control, Ashkanani kept his nemesis Schmid at bay to win the race by 3.115 seconds and move five points clear in the title showdown with one race to go.

The battle to finish in the top six in the penultimate race of the season was just as exciting as the top half of the table. Skydive Dubai Falcons went into the race looking to close the gap on Saudi Falcons in the Team title category and duly obliged to the challenge. Despite moving into second at once stage of the race Al Mehairi finished fourth with Al Nabooda Racings Karim Al-Azhari finished fifth to help team-mate close in on the team title.

Gold Category overall challenge standings – Top 6

 

Name

Country

Team

Points

1st

Zaid Ashkanani

Kuwait

Buzaid GT

224

2nd

Clemens Schmid

UAE

Al Nabooda Racing

219

3rd

Abdulaziz AlFaisal

KSA

Saudi Falcons

210

4th

Hasher Al Maktoum

UAE

Skydive Dubai Falcons

181

5th

Karim Al Azhari

UAE

Al Nabooda Racing

167

6th

Saeed Al Mehairi

UAE

Skydive Dubai Falcons

166

Overall team title standings – Top 3

 

Name

Country

Points

1st

Al Nabooda Racing

UAE

382

2nd

Skydive Dubai Falcons

KSA

344

3rd

Saudi Falcons

UAE

342

 

 

 

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