Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair heads for this winter’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East full of confidence after finishing 14th overall at his first attempt in the prestigious Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
The talented rookie teamed up with Germany’s Lechner Racing earlier this year to tackle 11 rounds of the Porsche one-make series, held in conjunction with Formula One Grand Prix, and staged in Barcelona, Monaco, Spielberg, Silverstone, Budapest, Spa, Monza and Mexico.
Against a formidable field of over 30 drivers, the Al Faisal Racing team driver amassed 28 championship points and six top 15 finishes on his way to an overall 14th position. The series saw his Lechner Racing team-mate Michael Ammermüller claim the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup crown by seven points from Dennis Olsen, although the Norwegian exacted revenge by winning the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany.
Al-Zubair collected four points from the opening two races in Barcelona, but failed to add to his points tally in both Monaco (DNF) and Spielberg (16th) in Austria. Three points were earned for his 13th position placement at Silverstone. However, his best result of the season thus far came at the high-speed Hungaroring, where the Omani earned seven points for eighth place.
The tricky Spa circuit in Belgium was, perhaps, the low point of the season for Al-Zubair. However, he followed up two non-points scoring races with five points in Monza for placing 10th and two excellent 11th place finishes at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City after qualifying 17th for both races.
Al-Zubair’s achievements also earned the Sultanate of Oman 10th place in the Nations’ Championship.
Al-Zubair said, “The championship was very tough having been placed against 30 of the best drivers in the class, but I knew I was going to be learning a lot. I was so happy to come out with a top 15 finish. Finishing 14th was great, especially going into the last round in 17th, but we proved that we were stronger. I also learned all the new circuits that I will be racing in the future. That is a big positive. The upcoming Middle East races will be the perfect avenue to put the experience we have gained into practice.”
There was a six-week gap between the final European round of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and the finale in Mexico; during which, Al-Zubair made the decision to tackle the final three rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany at the Nürburgring, Sachsenring, and Hockenheim circuits.
The rookie achieved 13th position in a wet opening sprint race at the Nürburgring and added 12th place in a drier 23-lap feature race to his achievements. Illness kept him away from the Sachsenring at the 11th hour, but Al-Zubair carded a pair of 12th-placed finishes at Hockenheim in the last European races of the season.
Founder and promoter Lechner Racing and Al-Faisal Al-Zubair now switch their attention to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, where the Omani is keen to finish inside the top three in the overall championship standings.
The 12-race season kicks off with rounds one and two at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain (November 16-18) and features further races at the Dubai Autodrome (December 8-9 and January 26-27), Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi (February 2-3), and the final four races back in Bahrain on (March 16-17 and April 6-8).
A comfortable winner of the 2016-17 GCC Porsche GT3 Rookie Championship, Al-Faisal finished fifth of the 21 registered drivers in the main championship last year. The series was won by Irishman Ryan Cullen from Dutchman Charlie Frijns and Luxembourg’s Dylan Pereira.