Bahrain driver says his Formula One dream is still alive
Sheikh Salman aims to get back on victory podium as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East reaches Saudi Arabia
Dubai. Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Rashid al Khalifa, who aims to boost his title bid when the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East arrives in Saudi Arabia next week, is still battling to keep alive his dream of entering the Formula One arena.
The peak performance in his career so far came in 2005 when he captured seven pole positions and scored six race victories to win the Formula BMW Asia Championship.
Now rising to the challenge of the exciting new one-make Porsche series, sponsored by Michelin and Mobil 1, Sheikh Salman is determined to get back on to the victory podium when rounds 3 and 4 unfold at Reem International Circuit outside Riyadh on January 6-7.
"Winning the Formula BMW (Asia) title was the highlight of my career to this point, but I shall be looking to add a few more championships," he said.
"The aim has always been to make some sort of impression on the F1 world through testing or becoming first Arab driver to get that level. My dreams are alive and I'll keep them alive as long as I can and keep on pushing.
"It would be nice to make it, but motor racing is a huge industry and I'm happy racing anything and I'll keep on trying to improve as a driver."
Sheikh Salman grabbed pole position for the first two opening rounds as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East was launched at Bahrain International Circuit earlier this month, but was "taken out" in race one and finished fourth in race two after taking a good early lead. Looking forward to his first drive at Reem International Circuit, he intends to close the gap on the joint series leaders, Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Prince Khaled Al Faisal, although he knows that will not be easy.
"Their racing talents differentiated them from other drivers early on so I knew that if they went into something at this professional level they would give us something to worry about," he said.
"The fact that I haven't been to Reem before just makes it more challenging. I've heard the track is narrower and there's a lot of undulations and blind corners. But I'm used to this, and going to new tracks is one of the nice things for drivers. The more there are to explore the more exciting it is."
Facing up to his position as favourite to become the first winner of the Porsche GT3 Cup title in the Middle East, Sheikh Salman says: "Most of the pressure to win is coming from myself so I don't feel any outside pressure. I do consider myself to be the most experienced driver in the series overall, but that doesn't change anything from my point of view."
"I'm really happy to be part of it. Whenever I mention that I'm driving a Porsche people get excited. Porsche is a huge name on the motor sport ladder all the way up to sports car racing and it's great to be taking part in a series for local drivers supported by such a global name."
"It's in its infancy at the moment but it will grow and attract many more drivers from different age groups. It's a beautiful championship in that it brings together many levels of talent from different backgrounds and adds strength to motor sport in the region."
Currently lying third in the championship, Saudi's Bandar Alireza is one of four members of the Bison Reem Racing Team who will be hoping to make the most of local knowledge of race conditions to make their mark on rounds three and four. After Reem, the series heads for the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi which stages rounds 5 and 6 on 5-6 February, and rounds 7 and 8 on 19-20 February.