The Middle East’s top racing drivers are progressing into a critical new phase as the region’s most professional racing series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East looks ahead to another year of competitive action with four rounds remaining in the eighth season.
After the opening two rounds in 2016 hosted by Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir last November and the Dubai Autodrome Motor Sports Club last month, it has proven to be one of the most exciting and most competitive editions of the series so far with many of the drivers identifying time spent over the winter break, as key in their preparations for honours in 2017.
With experience and expectations suggesting little will separate the top racers at the end of the season, the past few race-less weeks have been spent by the drivers could be the difference in edging their competitors in the race to victory.
Bahraini racers Shaikh Isa Abdulla Al Khalifa and Shaikh Isa Salman Al Khalifa have maximised their time away from the track which could prove vital this coming weekend, with the third round of the six-round season returns to the Dubai Autodrome track, with the teenage duo determined to be prepared for race day in the first race of the third round tomorrow and the second on Saturday.
Speaking after his active winter break Shaikh Isa Abdulla, said “It’s been nice to have some time away from the championship to look back at the things that have gone well in the opening rounds and also things that I can improve on moving forward. I have tried to remain as active as possible during the break and I’ve been in the gym working on strength and conditioning and also managed to get some track time to work on a few things. It can be easy to switch off while not racing but I want to keep my motivation high and both my mind and reactions sharp heading into the next round. I am really looking forward to getting back to the action.”
Teammate Shaikh Isa Salman has also been making the most of the time off, and knows that keeping the form he has shown in the opening rounds is vital for his season. He said, “I would have liked to have got some track time over the winter break but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance. I have however been spending a lot of time on racing simulators with my teammate and working on aspects of my driving that I think I can improve on. I have used a lot of my time making sure I keep my cardio up in the gym and keeping myself in good shape for the return at the weekend. I’ve had a really great start to the season and now it’s just about building on that and continuing to progress over the remaining rounds.”
While some drivers have seized every opportunity to remain in their cars across the past month, others have taken the winter break as an opportunity to relax from the high-pressure competition. Only time will tell who made the best decision for their driving needs.
What is certain is that the competition has never been tighter with the top two Gold category leaders Charlie Frijns and Ryan Cullen, tied on points, while in the silver category, Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair heads Bandar Alesayi of Saudi Arabia by just three points. It’s a similar story in the bronze category where Magus Ohman is just five points ahead of Isa S. Al Khalifa placing ever more emphasis on the winter break strategy.
Commenting on the end of the winter break and the return of regional racing action in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, founder and organiser Walter Lechner said, “Many of the drivers have taken different approaches to the winter break, some have aimed to get away from the track and refresh their minds. For others they don’t want to let go for a second and have focussed on maximising opportunities in their cars. There is no right or wrong but with the leaderboard so close across every category it will be very easy to see who has made the right decision and we don’t have to wait too long to find out. It’s another great part of this series and will add more excitement to what has already been an action packed few rounds.”
The GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is based on the highly successful Porsche formula for one-make series racing and the championship was created to give the region’s home-grown driving talent an opportunity to realise their racing potential while enhancing personal circuit experience and establish the most exciting, successful and professional one-make series on the regional motor racing calendar and features the region’s leading drivers, all competing in the powerful and dynamic Porsche 911 GT3 Cup on the Middle East’s world-class circuits.
Following on from this weekend round in Dubai will be Round four at the popular Yas Marina Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi and then Bahrain will welcome the drivers back to the home of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Series with Round five in Sakhir on March 10-11 and the finale and Round six between April 14 to 16 as a support race to the Gulf Air Grand Prix.