Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns claimed a sweet victory to win the second race of Round 2 of Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome with a near perfect performance. Isa S. Al Khalifa continues to impress in his debut season, finishing off his Dubai race weekend with yet another podium finish.
Speaking after race 2 of round 2 at Dubai Autodrome Al Khalifa said: “I am really pleased with my performance. I had an amazing start to the race and managed to move up after the first turn and was leading my category. I kept on pushing but made a few small mistakes later on, which saw me drop a position. I had an ongoing fight with one of the Swedish drivers but just couldn’t get past him in the end.
“Finishing third in the Bronze category and second in the Porsche GCC Rookie category is another strong result for me and allows me to keep on progressing in the championship. I still have a lot to learn and areas to improve on but look forward to the next round in January.”
Teammate Isa A. Al Khalifa had a frustrating finish to the weekend after being forced to retire after the first lap. After experiencing the Dubai Autodrome for the first time this weekend, Team Bahrain will look forward to returning to the track in the New Year for round 3 of the championship.
At the front of the grid, and after waiting three years to win his first race, Frijns returned to the top step of the podium for the second time in the opening four races of Season 8. The Doha-resident started in race from pole position and dominated from the front of the grid to cross the line and take the chequered flag by the significant margin of 6.137 seconds ahead of Britain’s Tom Oliphant who finished second.
Championship contender and winner of the previous day’s race in Dubai, Ryan Cullen of Ireland held onto the final place on the podium in third, managing to keep rival Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg at bay behind. Pereira finished fourth with UAE-based driver Bashar Mardini continuing to improve across his debut season in eighth position.
Following another outstanding triumph for Frijns, having won in Bahrain on the opening weekend, he said: “I had a really good start but as I approached the first turn my tires weren’t hot enough and I made a small mistake which allowed Ryan Cullen to overtake. I kept very close behind Ryan and continued to apply the pressure, in the second lap I managed to overtake and take back the spot at the front of the pack. Over the next couple of laps I managed to extend my lead and I just had to focus and make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”
For fans the second race in as many days in Dubai more than made up for the disappointment of the opening race which featured the deployment of the safety-car. The second race was clean and showcased Porsche GT3 Cup racing at its very best, delivering for fans the high-octane action that the region’s most professional series has become known for.
Blustery conditions, a packed grid and drivers engaged in battles throughout made it a hard earned victory for Frijns over twelve laps especially after falling behind rival Cullen on the first corner opening lap. But he soon regained his composure and drove flawlessly from the second lap to take a memorable win over the most competitive and international grid in the series history featuring 16 drivers from 12 different countries.
Frijns added: “It might have looked easy for people watching but when you’re out in front with these experienced drivers behind you, you know that one mistake could easily cost you the lead. I think in the end I had a 5 second gap, so I just kept pushing through all the way to the chequered flag and across the line. I am very happy with the result.”
Just outside the main podium the top six positions were completed by Pereira fourth, Saudi Arabia’s Bandar Alesayi in fifth and rookie star Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman in sixth.
After an encouraging race and eighth place finish, UAE resident Bashar Mardini commented: “It was a difficult race today with the windy conditions making it hard to judge some of the corners. I had a good start and pushed hard to improve on yesterday’s result. Al Faisal Al Zubair and Wolfgang Triller managed to pull a bit of a gap ahead of me and I continued to try and close the gap until the end. Unfortunately I couldn’t match yesterday’s result but an 8th place finish overall is still a huge improvement from round one in Bahrain and I will look forward to trying to get another podium finish in the next round early next year.”
Over the last two days Dubai has welcomed one of the biggest grids in the history of the series thanks to a host of fresh new faces making their full debut. Almost half of the drivers, to line up at the Autodrome were completely new to the grid, marking an exciting new chapter for Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. It is a fitting tribute to the strength, global reputation and momentum of the championship has gained over eight seasons.
Following a winter break, fans can expect more of the same on 27th – 28th January 2017 as the next race returns to the Dubai Autodrome for Round 3 before heading to Yas Marina Circuit Round 4 on 10th – 11th February 2017.
Championship standings after Race 4 (of 12 races) – Season 8
|5th||Al Faisal Al Zubair||OMN||Silver||62|
GCC Rookie Championship standings after Race 4 (of 12 races) – Season 8
|1st||Al Faisal Al Zubair||OMA||Silver||62|
|2nd||Isa S. Al Khalifa||BAH||Bronze||40|
|3rd||Isa A. Al Khalifa||BAH||Silver||35|
|4th||Mohammad Al Saud||KSA||Bronze||30|
Round 3 (of 6)
27 – 28 Jan 2017
Dubai Autodrome, UAE