Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series: Al Faisal al Zubair's excellent run continues with runner-up finish

The excellent run of Oman's Al Faisal Al Zubair continued at the Dubai Autodrome on Saturday as the 19 year old finished runner-up in the fourth race of the second round at the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series.

Having won the third race from Britain's Tom Oliphant, the latter bounced back to edge Al Faisal for race win.

Al Faisal's countrymate and debutant Khalid al Wahaibi, however, suffered a contact on Saturday but still managed to finish the race at 14th spot.

Al Faisal of Lechner Racing Middle East team qualified in third position and climbed up a place while Khalid had qualified in 13th and rose to eighth before colliding with another car and dropping back down the running order after a costly spin.

Germany’s Wolfgang Triller rounded off the podium places and Dutchman Charlie Frijns was fourth.

The second-round result means that Oliphant and Al Faisal have pulled clear of their rivals in the title race after two of six rounds with 48 and 42 points respectively. Khalid is overall tenth with 23 points among 17 drivers.

Speaking after the race, Al Faisal said, “It was a really good race and we were battling for the lead until the last lap. I think Oliphant was gaining an unfair advantage and, without that, I think we would have won the race. He was not respecting the track limits and the stewards have handed him a penalty (five places on grid at next race). I am happy with P2, but we should have won the race. It’s tough to pass here, but it was a good battle and I managed to cross Charlie [Frijns] and put the pressure on Oliphant.”

For rookie Khalid, it was a learning experience and hesaid, "It was a great start and I managed to climb from 13th to eighth. I was just behind the leading silver drivers and I wanted to build on that. I caught up with the Bahraini driver in front (Isa al Khalifa) and I began to put pressure on him. A mistake from Isa gave me a chance and I tried to take advantage of it. We were side-by-side for a few corners but then had contact at a left kink and I spun.

“This was disappointing after a good start. P6 and a top silver finish was definitely possible today. Races like this happen and you just have to learn from it and be better next time. Coming from P13 to P8 was great, so I take many positives away from this result.”

Al-Faisal Al-Zubair battles with Tom Oliphant.

Earlier, Al Faisal and Khalid had mixed fortunes in qualifying for the second race. Al Faisal stopped the clocks with the third fastest lap, but Khalid ended 13th position. Pole position fell to Oliphant although Al Faisal was the fastest GCC driver for the second day.

“It went all according to plan in practice, qualifying and the race,” said Al Faisal. “We were on used tyres. Now we were on an equal playing ground with the others with used tyres for everyone.”

Khalid Al-Wahaibi.

Khalid said, "It was not so good in qualifying. I was hoping for a better result. But we had to work with this. I struggled a bit with the car but we made some changes for the race. It’s my first season so I need to learn to manage my tyres throughout the six rounds.”

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East returns to the Dubai Autodrome for the fifth and sixth races of third round on January 26-27.

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