Ireland’s Ryan Cullen has raced to victory with an assured drive from pole position in the first race of the second round of Season 8 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Autodrome. Team Bahrain drivers Isa A. Al Khalifa and Isa S. Al Khalifa both reached the podium in their categories for the 3rd time already this season, an impressive result considering it was the teenagers’ debut performance at the Dubai Autodrome.
Irishman Cullen took his second win of the season with ease and was untroubled throughout at the front of the competitive grid featuring 16 drivers from 12 different countries. He eventually finished 0.563 seconds clear of Qatar-based driver Charlie Frijns who finished where he started the race in second.
>After coming finishing third in the bronze category and second in the Porsche GCC rookie category Isa S. Al Khalifa said: “The race was very difficult today. I had a good start and managed to go from 12th on the grid up to 8th, the safety car then came out after an incident and with the race being slowed down this really made the car difficult to drive. I lost quite a few positions but I continued to push and managed to finish third in the bronze category and second in the rookie category. Now I know the track a bit better I am very excited for tomorrow and hope for a stronger result.”
Teammate Isa A. Al Khalifa also did well to navigate himself around the tricky Dubai track with no prior experience on the circuit. The young driver still managed a third place podium finish in his category and took the positives from race one. Speaking after the race, Al Khalifa said: “The race was really good, I managed to finish third in my category. Hopefully tomorrow we can get a better time as we only managed to get 30 minutes practice before qualifying today. It was my first time racing here so I had to take a lot in very quickly and learn the track as fast as possible. I was pleased with the result and will continue to build on this tomorrow.”
After the win Ryan Cullen said; “I’m really happy, I got a great start and I was quite a bit ahead going into the first corner. I saw everybody else fighting behind me so I just got my head down and pushed to create a bigger gap with the grip I had. There was an accident just behind me, and when the safety car came out, it took away the lead I had and the hard work I put in. When the race continued, Charlie Frijns was very close to catching me but I just focused and managed to re-gain a bit of a lead and win the race.
“The main aim was to qualify in first and win the race today, that is what I did, and I am over the moon with the performance!”
There was a huge crowd, perfect warm conditions in Dubai and a tightly packed grid with only two seconds separating the top ten places in qualifying. But the race didn’t quite live up to the excitement of the opening round. Unfortunately an incident involving early championship leader Dylan Pereira and Saudi Arabia’s Bandar Alesayi saw the safety-car deployed for five of the twelve laps.
Once the action got back underway there was little chance for overtaking. The top six positions were completed by Tom Oliphant of Britain in fourth, slightly ahead from a chasing pack which included Germany’s Wolfgang Triller, who finished fifth and UAE-resident Bashar Mardini in sixth. The two Al Khalifa drivers battled hard to push themselves further up the grid but with tricky conditions after the re-start, they both just did enough to make the podium in their respective categories.
Saturday’s late second race in Dubai will once again feature a diverse grid comprising of professional, amateurs and rookies from around the world. Drivers from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Luxenberg, Sweden and Turkey have descended upon Dubai to challenge local stars representing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia, in the region’s most professional and established race series.
With all drivers competing in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, the one-make series will race across three world class regional racing circuits, namely the Bahrain International Circuit, Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi between November 2016 and April 2017.