Dubai: Oliphant wins historic 100th race of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Dubai Autodrome
Tom Oliphant of Great Britain has won the 100th race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome as part of the UAE National Day series, with Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair second and Germany’s Wolfgang Triller third.
The landmark centennial race is the combined result of a special partnership between Porsche and Lechner Racing who committed to deliver the first and only professional motorsport series in region nearly a decade ago. The championship is credited with introducing the highest standards of racing to the Middle East as proven again today.
Victory by Oliphant in the second race of the weekend came by the tightest of margins. A mere 0.707 seconds separated Oliphant from regional hero Al Zubair following a colossal duel over 14 intense laps. It was the sweet revenge and a reversal of the previous day’s result. But it was never comfortable for Oliphant. He was forced to defend throughout as Al Zubair charged in the closing laps yet he held on for a cherished triumph.
Speaking after the 100th race of the series, Tom Oliphant said: “I got a really good start today and managed to stay ahead into turn one. I knew the first couple of laps would be difficult but I was able to hold my position and start to pull a gap ahead of Al Faisal Al Zubair. As the race went on my tyres started to wear and Al Faisal closed the gap behind me and started to put the pressure on. We ended up side by side for 3 or 4 turns, touched slightly but kept it clean, it was really good racing. I was able to defend my position in the last lap and cross the line in first place.
“I’m really pleased, and to win the 100th race in the championship is a real honour. We now move on with the championship lead going into the winter break and hope to come back to Dubai in the new year just as strong!”
Al Zubair wins opening race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Round 2 Season 9 at the Dubai Autodrome
Friday 8th Dec – Race 1 – Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair has claimed an outstanding victory in the first of two races at Dubai Autodrome
The race win is a huge achievement and highlights the rapid development of the rising star who is driving in only his second season in the region’s most professional championship. From pole position the Omani teenager secured victory with an accomplished and assured performance, for his second win in his series career.
Al Zubair was followed over the line by current championship leader, Oliphant, who finished second. Germany’s Wolfgang Triller completed the podium places in a career best third and Dutch driver Charlie Frijns fourth.
Speaking after winning in Dubai, Al Faisal Al Zubair said: “It’s been a great day for me today, we set some really quick times to secure pole position in qualifying, and had a great start in the race which allowed me to pull a gap ahead of Tom Oliphant and Charlie Frijns. Charlie managed to overtake me on the second corner but I took the position back immediately and then pulled away again. The result helps me to build on my hopes of winning the championship this season and is a huge step for me once again.
“I think that the fact that I came into this championship last season with no experience in the Porsche cup car, started in the silver category, and now I am winning races in the gold category speaks volumes and shows just how much drivers like myself can develop their racing careers. I’ve worked really hard over the summer, and I am determined to keep improving, and keep surprising myself and my team. We will of course go for the same results tomorrow and hope to make it a perfect weekend in Dubai!”
The margin of the win, 4.67 seconds, would suggest the race win came easy to Al Zubair. But he was put under significant pressure in the opening laps, falling back to third on lap 1. His response was emphatic and immediate.
Behind Al Zubair, Oliphant drove consistently and will be satisfied to take second place and continue to lead the overall driver standings. Outside the top four the real action featured a tremendous tussle between those from fifth to eighth place which involved several international drivers making their debut in Dubai.
After changing position throughout the 14-lap race, Sweden’s Magnus Oehman eventually clinched a credible fifth having started in seventh. France newcomer Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer was sixth, South Africa’s Saul Hack, also making his debut was seventh and Khalid Al Wahaibi.
Speaking after the race, series founder and manager, Walter Lechner said:
“A decade ago when first envisaging a dedicated and world-class series for the region with Porsche this is exactly what we had in mind. I couldn’t be more proud to see this series flourish and the passion for Porsche racing grow across the region and the world.”
Tomorrow once again 17 drivers representing nine different nationalities will line up on the grid for a race that will mean so much to all involved in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. The second race in Dubai sees the region’s most successful and professional one-make series reach a monumental milestone, as it marks the 100th race in the history of the championship.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East consists of six race weekends with 12 races over a period of six months. Following the second round the championship returns to Dubai for Round 3, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for Round 4. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
The win for Oliphant is his second victory in the opening four races of the twelve race championship and extends his lead in the drivers’ standings to 6 points over Al Zubair. Both drivers remain locked at the top of the championship, with the battle expected to continue in 2018 when the series returns on 26th & 27th January also at the Dubai Autodrome. The top three drivers in the championship are; Oliphant 96 pts, Al Zubair 90 pts, Frijns 72 pts, with eight races remaining.
The historic 100th race has come courtesy of staging 9 consecutive seasons and featured an international grid of 17 elite drivers from 9 countries, including Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden alongside local stars from Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
A large crowd enjoyed the engrossing action which descended throughout the field. Behind Triller, Dutch star Charlie Frijns picked up his second fourth placed finish of the weekend. Fifth place went to French rookie Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and the top six positions were completed by Britain’s Glynn Geddie.
The impact of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been huge, accelerating the sport regionally and globally by offering a pathway to the top level of the sport for regional drivers. The 100th race typified the growing strength of the successful development program that is transforming the sport locally.
Young drivers from the region are amongst the brightest stars emerging with notable performances from Team Bahrain’s Ali Al Khalifa (11th), Saudi’s Mohammad Al Saud (12th) and Oman’s Khalid Al Wahaibi (14th), who all reached the podium in their respective categories.
At the end of the special 100th race, Walter Lechner said: “I am humble and proud to witness our 100th race. Tom is a worthy winner. But I honestly feel the most satisfying aspect of this moment is the fact that the sport is winning. The energy and momentum behind the championship feels unstoppable. These are special days.
“We have more drivers from more countries than ever before. Firm foundations have been established over many years and the result is a new breed of regional stars that hold every quality required to succeed in racing. It’s been a wonderful experience and journey to get to this landmark. But as the 100th race proved, we are accelerating towards even greater milestones in the future.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East now enters a short winter break before concluding the remainder of the season in 2018. The series returns to Dubai on 26th – 27th January 2018, before visiting Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, 2nd – 3rd February 2018. The final two rounds will be held in Bahrain, with the series coming to a thrilling conclusion as an official support race for the 2018 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.