Bahrain: Schmid crowned Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East Champion as SkyDive Dubai team take teams title in Bahrain
Sun 19th Apr 2015 – Season 6 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East came to a thrilling conclusion in Race 2 of Round 6 at the Bahrain International Circuit with Clemens Schmid of Al Nabooda Racing securing his second drivers’ championship by a margin of ten points, while Skydive Dubai Falcons lifted the team trophy for the first time.
Following on from the thrills of Race 1, Race 2 was a more controlled but equally exciting affair with the top two drivers, Schmid and Ashkanani, starting from sixth and seventh following a five place grid penalty for Ashkanani and a very poor qualifying performance from Schmid the day before.
Suffering from neither of those woes were Skydive Dubai Falcons who performed exceptionally across the weekend with Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum securing his second podium place finish in as many days while his team mate Saeed Al Mehairi took second to ensure the team trophy returned to Dubai but in the hands of a new team, after being held by Al Nabooda Racing for the past two years.
From the get-go Schmid knew he had to finish within a few places of his title rival Ashkanani to secure the driver’s championship title and drove a solid race to ensure the Kuwaiti could not escape his sights. Despite pushing hard to help his Al Nabooda Racing team secure vital team points, the UAE resident was unable to hunt down the Skydive Dubai duo and had to settle for fifth place in Race 2 behind Ashkanani on the results sheet, but ten points ahead of him in the standings.
Having secured his second drivers’ title in three seasons, Clemens Schmid said: “This weekend didn’t go exactly to plan. Today I pushed as hard as I could without taking any risks but still we didn’t make the podium so we weren’t able to retain the team title. I’m pleased to have won the driver’s championship and I dedicate the win to all at Al Nabooda Racing. The team were fantastic all season and the car was perfectly prepared. I’d like to thank all the mechanics. Personally it’s been another great experience. The standard keeps improving and I’d to fight all season to secure the title.”
After an outstanding weekend following up a second place finish with a third in the final race of the season, Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum said: “I’ve had my best weekend of the series so I’m proud of our achievements as a team for Skydive Dubai Falcons. Winning the team title was always the priority and we did it for Dubai! Naturally as a racing driver I’m slightly disappointed not to win today. I felt I did enough and had led for every lap apart the last one. To slip down to third was a shame but after standing on the podium with my teammate, hearing the anthem and knowing that we won the team category was a very special feeling.”
Skydive Dubai Falcons Teammate Saeed Al Mehairi, who added the silver category championship win to the team title, said: “That was amazing! Today we set out with very clear tactics to drive calm, smooth and clean. That’s all we needed to do to win the team title and we stuck to our task. It couldn’t have gone any better. Today, this weekend as part of the F1 and this entire season. Last year we were rookies but we worked so hard. One year on and we’ve won the team title as well as claiming first and second in our silver category. I’m really happy and hope we can defend the title next season.
With the F1 crowds filling the stands, Season 6 the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East came to a climatic conclusion on the biggest stage of all adding an extra level of excitement and prestige to the region’s most professional and most competitive racing series.
As the lights went out at Bahrain International Circuit the drivers burst into life with Clemens Schmid looking to build on his seventh place start on the grid while Zaid Ashkanani also had work to do from sixth. Schmid has the better start of the two but as the came to the first corner it was only Ahmad Al Harthy of Al Nabooda Racing who managed to gain a position, up from ninth to seventh.
Lap one saw the cars tightly packed with second placed Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum pushing for the lead, and taking it from Charlie Frijns who started on pole. Also managing to squeeze past Frijns on lap one were Fahad Algosaibi and, significantly Al Maktoum’s team mate Saeed Al Mehairi as the Skydive Dubai duo went for maximum points to secure the team title.
All eyes were on the scrap between Ashkanani and Schmid and the pair were quick to pass Bandar Alesayi with Ashkanani fully aware he would need to finish around five places ahead of his rival if he was to take the driver’s championship.
Despite searching for the opportunity to get those much needed points the young Kuwaiti couldn’t close in on Frijns and had to settle for fourth. Meanwhile, in the hunt for the team title the Skydive Dubai pair were placed first and second after just two laps with the victors trophy within their reach. As the race wore on Al Maktoum was facing increased pressure from second placed Fahad Algosaibi with the result that Saeed Al Mehairi was able to track down the front runners and mount a challenge of his own. The closing laps saw a three-way battle with the drivers racing three abreast down the straights on more than one occasion.
As his tyres wore out Al Maktoum was unable to hold on despite leading for the majority of the race and surrendered the lead finishing third behind Algosaibi and Al Mehairi with Ashkanani fourth Schmid fifth and Bandar Alesayi sixth.