Bahrain, April 14, 2015-Ashkanani determined to defend Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title before entering GP3 series
Kuwait’s Zaid Ashkanani has confirmed his focus remains only on winning the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East driver’s title when the region’s leading race series concludes as part of the official 2015 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix weekend at the Sakhir International Circuit, Bahrain.
Despite recently announcing his forthcoming debut in GP3 this summer the prodigious talent is determined to finish the season on a glorious high. If the twenty year old reigning champion is to retain the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East driver’s championship, it will take an outstanding performance to overturn a significant 12 point deficit against arch rival Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing.
UAE-based Schmid, a former champion, enters the final two races of the sixth season leading the overall driver standings on 240 points, ahead of Ashkanani in second position on 228 points with Saeed Al Mehairi of Skydive Dubai Falcons in a credible third place on 177 points. As per last year’s gripping climax in Bahrain which saw Ashkanani win by the narrowest of margins over Schmid, a single point, the series is set for another dramatic finish.
At the completion of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Ashkanani will join Team Campos in GP3 a support series to Formula One. As a result he will become the first ever driver from the Middle East to enter the single-seater championship.
But for the Kuwaiti the prospect of GP3 racing remains a distant challenge with winning a successive Porsche GT3 title his immediate priority and goal, Ashkanani said: “The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has turned me into a racing driver. I started in karting with big hopes but this is where I got my opportunity to learn, develop and build what I hope to be a successful career in motorsport. It’s so competitive, there is simply nothing like it in the region to give experience to young drivers and to race professionally with a leading manufacturer like Porsche.
“Last year I won the championship in Bahrain over a quality grid. It is the highlight of my career so far. But retaining the title would go one better. It will be tough but not impossible. I can’t wait for Bahrain and to test myself again on one of the biggest stages of all for motorsport in the Middle East during the grand prix weekend.”
Manager of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, Walter Lechner added: “Zaid has rapidly risen through the ranks of motorsport in the region to reach the highest level. As a young teenager we saw the raw talent and now with three years of experience with Porsche racing he has the temperament to go alongside his natural skill. In winning the title last season to become the youngest ever champion he made a name for himself and we’re all delighted to see new opportunities come his way as a result.
“Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was established for that very reason. It was our founding vision to create a platform that developed young driving talent from the region and helped them achieve success internationally. Zaid is another example that shows the Porsche pathway is proven. He has the potential to follow in the footsteps of champions like Abdulaziz Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia who has raced across Europe including Le Mans and Clemens Schmid who has advanced into the pinnacle of GT racing though Porsche Supercup.”
Ashkanani will begin the new challenge of GP3 this summer for Team Campos in Barcelona for the first of nine rounds. Similar to Porsche Supercup series GP3 tours some of Europe’s most prestigious motor circuits including Silverstone and Monaco before GP3 concludes in a one-off round outside Europe at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Circuit.
Looking ahead Ashkanani’s single-minded approach sees no further than this weekend and the first practice session on Friday 17th April with qualifying and the opening race of Round 6 taking place on Saturday 18th April.
“There has been a long gap between Round 5 in Dubai and this weekend which will decide everything. I won both races in Qatar for Round 4, but lost a bit of momentum to Clemens in Round 5 but I’ve had the chance to regroup and prepare hard. Clemens is an incredible driver so I’ll need to be at my very best but I’m ready for it.”
A thrilling season finale to decide the driver’s and team championships of the sixth season lies ahead with the final race scheduled take place at 15:30 on Sunday 19th April ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
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