Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East: Dominating Al Faisal bags eighth race win

A day after he was pushed to third spot, talented racer Al Faisal al Zubair bounced back to claim the top honours in the second race of fourth round of the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Saturday.

With his eighth race win of the tenth season of the prestigious series, the Omani racer has once again underlined his credentials as one of the title favourite and is on course to defend his overall title.

The defending champion was gifted the win after finishing second in the race behind experienced Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg. However, Pereira was slapped a five-second time penalty for shortcutting turn 18, enabling Al Faisal to claim the honours.

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The victory gave the Walter Lechner Racing driver a total of 263 points from 11 races. It includes eight wins, one runner-up finish, one third-place spot and only once has Al Faisal been outside the podium when he came fourth in the ninth round in Dubai.

Turkey’s Berkay Besler, who came second on Saturday is overall second with 222 points, giving Al Faisal a 41-point lead in the drivers’ championship heading into the final five races of the series in March.

France's J B Simmenauer is third with 178 while Al Faisal's Omani teammate, Khalid al Wahaibi, who finished seventh on Saturday, is overall fifth with 173. Team Oman, with 436 points, meanwhile, takes a huge 189-point lead over Team Sweden to Bahrain in the Team Championship.

Speaking after the win, Al Faisal said, “We had a problem with the ignition in the coil. We had a bit of a leak in the engine. That affected us yesterday [Friday], but we were focused for today. In qualifying we were two-tenths off and, in the race, it’s another win. We were close with Dylan. He drove a really good race, but he cut the track a bit.”

He added, “I’m happy with how this weekend has gone; P3 in race one and a win today. Now my focus turns to round five in Bahrain.”

Khalid said, “We started P7 and had a bad first lap and that cost me quite a lot.”

The outcome of the second qualifying session on Saturday was a carbon copy of the first in terms of the positioning of the top three.

Dylan Pereira claimed his second pole of the weekend with a best tour of 2min 11.176sec, but that was 0.241 seconds faster than the best lap set by Al Faisal.

Khalid had a best run of 2min 12.194sec.

The region’s longest running racing series will now head to Bahrain International Circuit for the remaining two rounds.

The next three races are on March 8-9 in round five while the series comes to a thrilling conclusion with the sixth round (15th and 16th races) as an official support race for the 2019 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, the only regional racing series to do so, on March 30-31.

Overall standings: [Top five]: 1 Al Faisal al Zubair  (263 points), 2 Berkay Besler (222), 3 J B Simmenauer (178), 4 Michael de Quesada (177), 5 Khalid al Wahaibi (173).

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