Northern Ireland newcomer Charlie Eastwood joined the grid for race one of the fourth round at the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, surprising drivers to take first place on the podium.
A Porsche Carrera Cup GB scholar, Eastwood flew into Abu Dhabi and onto the grid as a guest driver, taking pole position in qualifying by clocking a furious 2:13.611. Sharing the front row with title hopeful Charlie Frijns, Eastwood held his position to take the win with Cullen second and Frijns third.
With all three Bahraini drivers on the track competing at the Yas Marina Circuit for the first time, it was all about getting some vital experience whilst building on some impressive performances over the first half of the season. After qualifying well in their respective categories, a crowded turn one saw Isa A. Al Khalifa and Hamad Al Khalifa both drop positions. Isa S. Al Khalifa kept his position as the drivers continued into the first lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit.
With all Bahraini drivers pushing throughout the race, the gaps between the cars increased, making it difficult to overtake. An incident late on saw Isa S. Al Khalifa exit the race early, while Isa A. Al Khalifa managed to secure a second place finish in the Porsche GCC Rookie Category.
After Race 1 at Yas Marina Circuit, Isa S. Al Khalifa said: “This is the first race for me at Yas Marina Circuit, so I’m very happy I finished second in the Porsche GCC Rookie Championship. I don’t think this is the best race I’ve had, but I have definitely come out of it learning a lot and understanding more to hopefully win my class in tomorrow’s race here in Abu Dhabi. In contrast to the other drivers who have raced here before, I’m feeling confident comparing results and I’m excited for Race 2.”
Elsewhere in the race, Pereira showed his assertive side once more and pushed his way down the inside of Oliphant and Al Zubair at the start, making his way from sixth to fourth. He also maintained his position until the chequered flag by building an impressive 4.8 seconds on the rest of the grid.
Al Zubair and Oliphant had their own race behind the leaders. Omani rookie Al Zubair dropped two places during the lightening start, ending in sixth where a patience Oliphant challenged on lap 10 for the fifth place finish. With only six-tenths of a second separating him and Oliphant, Al Zubair showed fight until the end and took 1st place podiums in both Silver and Rookie categories.
Round 4 racing continues this weekend and fans can experience the live action for Race 2 at 3.15pm on Saturday 11th at Yas Marina Circuit.
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East represents the most professional series of its kind in the region and offers a proven pathway to world-class international motorsport. Season 8 features an international grid of 16 drivers representing 12 different nationalities covering every level of competition from professionals, amateurs and rookie drivers. International drivers hail from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Luxenberg, Sweden and Turkey with the best local drivers representing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.