Double delight for Al Attiyah

February 17, 2014 - 1:23:45 am

Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah on the podium after his silver category win in Race 2 of Round 5 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Dubai Autodrome.

 

DOHA: The unstoppable winning form of Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah has continued with his second silver category win in Race 2 of Round 5 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome.

The Team QMMF (Qatar Motor & Motorcycling Federation) driver collected his fourth silver category trophy in four outings, maintaining a 100 percent record of reaching the podium in all Porsche races. This latest back to back success in the Round 5 race weekend in Dubai was even more impressive considering the Qatari rally hero had never even seen the demanding Grand Prix circuit at the Autodrome until this week.

Showing increased confidence and comfort each time he’s stepped into the new Porsche GT3, Al Attiyah has been thrilled with the opportunity to take his motoring career onto the track with Team QMMF and the most professional race series in the region.

Speaking after another impressive drive, he said: “This weekend has been a fantastic experience, and getting onto the podium twice has been brilliant, considering it was the first time I raced in Dubai. I am still learning in the new car and the tracks, which are very technical, and hopefully I can improve my results further in Bahrain. In the second race, I moved up three positions in the race and had Faisal Binladen in my sights and got quite close to him a couple of times. But I’m happy to finish in the top ten for the first time. This is all a learning curve for me and preparation for next season, and every time I go onto the track I learn something new.

“The pressure is very intense on the track, with each driver fighting for points, which makes it a very competitive series, but that is why we all race. With the championship to be decided in Bahrain, the final round will be very special. I am going to enjoy every second of it.”

Ahead of Al Attiyah, who finished ninth overall, Zaid Ashkanani led from pole to the chequered flag. Ashkanani, the revelation of the 2013/2014 season, looked safe in front despite being pushed all the way by Fahad Algosaibi of Saudi Arabia. The young Kuwaiti had an excellent start on the clean side of the track, which helped him on his way to victory and the top of the drivers’ standings.

The drama behind was mainly restricted to the opening laps, with Saudi Falcons’ Abdulaziz Al Faisal jumping up a position from fourth to third, while Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa dropped down to finish sixth. Producing one of the drives of the weekend was Skydive Dubai Falcons’ Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, who was pushed on by cheers from his home crowd. Starting ninth on the grid the Emirati driver had shot up to fourth by lap 3 and proceeded to pile the pressure on Al Faisal, who was forced into giving up his spot, eventually finishing where he had started, in the fourth position.

Al Maktoum’s teammate Saeed Al Mehairi also made the best of a few errors by others, making his way past Al Khalifa and Christina Nielsen to finish fifth. Al Nabooda’s Karim Al Azhari was unable to hold on to his fifth place qualification and ended the race seventh, just ahead of Faisal Binladen of the Saudi Falcons.

The Dubai round was always going to be one of the most exciting of the season, but no one could have predicted just how close the weekend would become. The implications in the drivers’ standings have been huge, with the series now set to go down to the very last race in Bahrain next month.

After taking maximum points in Race 2, Zaid Ashkanani has leapfrogged Clemens Schmid into first in the drivers’ championship and opened up a three-point gap over his Al Nabooda rival with 199 overall points. Schmid’s lack of points from the weekend has also allowed two-time former champion Abdulaziz Al Faisal to draw level on 196.

With one round to go, the thrilling Dubai weekend results mean the championship title cannot be decided until the final race of the series — Round 6, Race 2 — with 25 points available for first place in Race 1 and 25 points available in Race 2. The second place in each race will bring 23 points, the third place 21 points and the fourth 19 points.

In the team standings, Al Nabooda Racing stays on top, but has lost ground to the Saudi Falcons, who have cut the gap from 49 points to 22. Third placed Skydive Dubai Falcons have also reduced the distance between them and the second placed team from 16 to 10 points.

The Dubai weekend results have set up the most grand of finales, with the region’s most professional racing series set to come to a thrilling climax at the Bahrain International Circuit for Round 6 on March 7 and 8.

THE PENINSULA

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