Porsche GT3 Cup title race heats up in Saudi
Dubai. The 2010-11 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East reaches the half way stage in Saudi Arabia this week, with five drivers locked in an intriguing tussle for honours which could go all the way to a dramatic climax in the UAE in April.
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman Bin Rashid Al Khalifa goes into Rounds 5 & 6 of the 12-round series at Reem International Circuit outside Riyadh on Wednesday and Thursday (19-20 January) holding a slender two-point lead from Saudi's defending champion, Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal.
While the top two continue their fight for supremacy, Abu Dhabi's Khaled Al Qubaisi, record-breaking teenager Fahad Algosabi, and another Saudi driver, Bandar Alesayi, are determined not to let the championship develop into a two car-race.
Holding third place, Al Qubaisi wants to build on his three podium places from the opening four rounds in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and prove that he can take his title challenge all the way to the finish on home territory at Yas Marina Circuit on April 8-9.
Currently lying fourth, Algosabi will be looking to reproduce the form which saw him become the youngest ever race winner in Porsche one-make series history at Reem last season.
Meanwhile Alesayi, who took third place overall in the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, has the opportunity to make full use of local knowledge at Reem as he tries to climb from his current fifth place in the championship.
It all adds up to a thrilling two days of Porsche GT3 Cup racing during a busy programme of events at the Reem circuit where Sheikh Salman is aiming to add to his two race wins so far this season and extend his lead.
While he took pole position for seven of last season's 12 rounds, the Bahraini driver could manage only one victory, although his performances so far this season suggest he believes that he can snatch the title from Prince Abdulaziz.
Saudi's defending champion, who scored nine race victories in the 2009-10 series, will have tremendous home support at Reem and will try to grab whatever advantage he can from his liking for, and familiarity with, the circuit.
"Reem is definitely a lot more technical than the other circuits," he said. "The track is tighter, with more turns, and how you handle these is very important. You have to go easy on the breaks going into the turns and come out strongly. You need to rely more on the gears.
"The track is also a bit bumpier than normal. Whoever has the lead there has a big advantage as it's very difficult to overtake on the circuit, so qualifying times are very important and getting pole position is the key."
Added Abdulaziz: "Salman, Khaled, Fahad, and Bandar have all had plenty of experience on each of the circuits now so home advantage is less of a factor as opposed to last year. The spectators just want to see high quality racing and that is what we are all collectively looking to provide."
While the top five fight out the podium places, Al Qubaisi's Abu Dhabi team-mate, Musaed Al Murar, attempts to extend his 100 per cent winning sequence in the rookie category.
-source: pcc me/totalcompr