Doha-based driver Charlie Frijns of Team Frijns Structural Steel Middle East is back in contention for a top three finish in the driver’s standings of Season 7 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East after two strong performances in Round 2 over the weekend in Saudi Arabia.
Frijns followed his powerful third place in the opening race on the Al Reem International Circuit to finish fifth in Race 2. As a result the young driver is now seventh in the overall standings and has closed the gap on his nearest rival and is separated by only 7 points from Saudi’s Abdulaziz AlFaisal who lies in sixth overall.
Under very difficult conditions Frijns qualified in sixth place and maintained that position on the technical track, as the region’s leading one-make series continued its long awaited return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time in over two years.
The demands of a windswept Saudi track proved a tough ask for the Qatari resident as he attempted to fight through the field and replicate his podium finish from earlier in the weekend. Yet the Al Reem International Circuit yielded few chances to pass. Frijns did seize his only opportunity with some determined driving to overcome Sheikh Hasher Maktoum of the Skydive Dubai Falcons on the sixth lap of the seventeen lap race.
Ultimately Frijns had to settle for fifth place. Although this wouldn’t have been what he set out for the youngster can take some confidence from a podium finish in race 1 and some strong driving from a tough position on the grid in the second race.
Speaking after the race, a satisfied Frijns said:
“Overall I’ve made some progress this weekend to close the gap slightly in the driver’s championship. But perhaps not as much as I would have liked. This is a very challenging circuit and the one I know least well out of all we race on. All weekend there were very few opportunities to move up the field in the race so everything came down to the qualifying. This is something I know I can improve on. I’ll forward to getting back on track in 2016 after the winter break and returning to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.”
Out at the front of the second race the UAE’s Al Nabooda Racing team once again proved unbeatable with championship leader Jeffrey Schmidt securing another landmark victory to extend his winning streak to four straight win in four races in Season 7.
In a repeat of the opening race Schmidt blazed from pole position on the grid following an outstanding qualifying session to take the chequered flag and top place on the podium unchallenged. The newcomer to Al Nabooda Racing has once again underlined his title winning pedigree securing the win over seventeen laps by a gap of 1.515 seconds to extend his lead in the overall driver standings to 14 points.
Ireland’s Ryan Cullen followed Schmidt over the line in second place with Al Nabooda Racing’s Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait returning to the podium again to claim a hard earned third position. There was further good news for the UAE as Skydive Dubai Falcons driver Saeed Al Mehairi advanced from fifth on the grid to finish fourth, just outside the podium places. Elsewhere Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns was fifth and home favourite Abdulaziz AlFaisal sixth.
Speaking after the race win and a dream debut weekend in Saudi Arabia, a delighted Jeffrey Schmidt of Al Nabooda Racing said:
“The race was really sandy. It was definitely one of the toughest races I have had. The first couple of laps were very difficult as the pressure from the pack behind meant there was no room for any mistakes. The first lap was hard as there was no reference point which meant I had to concentrate and drive really well. I am very happy with first place, it’s good for me personally in the championship and it’s a great team win as well. It’s been four races and four wins, but the other drivers are getting closer and closer so I definitely need to work hard to stay in front.”
Despite losing out on second place to Cullen, Al Nabooda Racing’s Ashkanani will be pleased with his overall contribution to the team over the weekend as he settles back into Porsche GT3 Cup racing following his exploits in the FIA GP3 series. Thanks to the victory of Schmidt and Ashkanani’s strong support Al Nabooda Racing has now increased their lead in the team championship to 45 points (182 points total) going into the winter break with two of the six rounds completed.
The championship now heads into a winter break before resuming in the UAE for three back to back rounds to kick start the New Year across January and February, closely followed by the return to Bahrain for the climactic conclusion to Season 7 in early March.
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series will consist of 12 races between November 2015 and March 2016.
For the latest news on the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East please visit the official website: www.gt3cupchallenge-me.com or follow the series’ news at www.facebook.com/porscheGT3CCME, on Twitter @PorscheGT3CCME and on Instagram @PorscheGT3CCM.
All media enquiries on the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East should be directed to: [email protected]
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