PME Oman's Al-Zubair shadows rival Oliphant in race one of Porsche GT3 Challenge in Dubai
PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE MIDDLE EAST
Races 5-6 – Dubai Autodrome, January 26-27, 2018
For immediate release
Sunday, January 28th, 2018
OMAN’S AL-ZUBAIR SHADOWS RIVAL OLIPHANT TO CHEQUERED FLAG
IN OPENING PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE SERIES RACE IN DUBAI
· Young Omani Al-Wahaibi finishes 10th after locking brakes in Silver battle
DUBAI (UAE): Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair and rookie Khalid Al-Wahaibi endured mixed fortunes in the first race at round three of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome.
Al-Zubair of the Lechner Racing Middle East team qualified in second position behind rival Tom Oliphant but his rival was given a five-place grid penalty after an infringement at the previous round.
The Omani shadowed the Briton to the chequered flag after losing out on a potential race win when he and the experienced Luxembourg driver Dylan Pereira came together with six laps to go when fighting for the lead. Al-Zubair recovered well to maintain his title challenge with second place and increase the gap to his other rivals in the series. A mere 1.056 seconds separated the duo at the end of 14 laps of frenetic racing, but the race win enabled Oliphant to increase his championship lead to eight points.
“The start wasn’t good and Dylan (Pereira) got me and I was stuck behind him,” said Al-Zubair. “Then, with six laps to go, Dylan and I had contact and that allowed Oliphant to go into the lead. Then, I stuck behind him and finished in P2 and got some good points for the championship.”
Charlie Frijns finished third, 2.197 seconds behind the race winner, and UAE-based Scot Glynn Geddie and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer rounded off the top five, with the latter winning the Silver class.
Al-Wahaibi continued to lead the GCC Rookie Championship from Bahrain’s Ali Al-Khalifa, but ceded some points to his rival after a brake lock-up dropped him to 10th position at the chequered flag.
Al-Wahaibi said: “The start was really good. I gained a place and managed to stick behind the Silver drivers. I finished fifth in the Silver class, but I knew from official practice that I was faster. I tried to stick behind them and, in two laps, I caught the car in second place in the Silver class but then I made a stupid mistake and locked up. From then on, it was a battle with under steer with car because of the lock up. I take full blame for the race. I know the pace is there to get into the top five or top six.”
The weekend got off on a firm footing for both Al-Zubair and Al-Wahaibi. The former ran for 12 laps in the free practice session on Friday morning and clocked the fastest lap of 1min 38.352sec, beating rivals Frijns by 0.406 seconds and Oliphant by 0.425 seconds. Pereira was fourth and Al-Wahaibi topped the Silver and Rookie drivers in fifth with an impressive time of 1min 39.051sec.
Al-Zubair couldn’t quite match his practice performance in the qualifying session and the Omani was edged out of pole position by Oliphant by the margin of just 0.043 seconds by a fastest lap of 1min 38.906sec that had been slower than he had set in the morning. Pereira and Frijns qualified in third and fourth and Al-Wahaibi slotted into ninth.
Al-Zubair said: “I had a good qualifying session and I managed to get second, but Oliphant has a grid penalty and we started the race from first position. Oliphant was given sixth position.”
Al-Wahaibi was not as happy with his performance: “That was a bit disappointing and didn’t get the peak of the tyre right. The warm-up was a bit too slow, I think, and we need to speed it up. Fourth and seventh today, but I know I am capable of the top five, so we work on that.”
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