crankandpiston.com hits pitroad to grab a quick word with a few Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East drivers, just thirty minutes before the start of the second race of the weekend.[Not a valid template]
It’s just struck 11.30am and there’s only half an hour to go before the second Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East race gets underway. Traditionally 30 minutes before go-time is way too late to grab thoughts and reflections from the drivers, with game faces set, helmets buckled and cars being rolled onto pitroad. Turns out a cranandpiston.com monikered shirt – plus the convivial spirit of drivers in the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East series – can help a lot, and it’s not long before I’ve collared a few of the drivers, voice recorder in-hand, for their thoughts on the upcoming race.
Faisal Binladen, #17 The Saudi Falcons
“Well I don’t think the first race went very well! We aborted the first start and got hit in the first corner of an aborted start, which did not put me in the best frame of mind. The car is difficult to start, and we’ll still not used to it. Plus, there’s so much more grip than last year with the wider tyres and the wider stance, so it makes life a little easier and harder. But yeah, once we’d started the race was okay and the pace was good until I overtook Christine [Nielsen] on the second lap, and into the hairpin, I think she just lost her cool shall we say, and she went into the back of me. I spun and crashed into her side, but by that point I was just a passenger. So now we have some chassis damage, engine holding points damage, exhaust damage, and the list goes on. I really don’t want to see the invoice!”
Abdulaziz Al Faisal, #7 The Saudi Falcons
“Yep, bad race. I had a really bad start, and that was my fault. But the car just… I lost grip from the first lap onwards. I had a small battle with one of the cars in front of me [Hubert Haupt], overtook him, but then the four guys in front of me were just much faster: I was two seconds slower than Clemens on the last lap. Even when I overtook, I could see [Haupt] coming out of the corners with much better traction. So we’ll have to try some crazy tomorrow, since we’ve got nothing to lose, and see how it goes.
“We had the two days of testing last week and I was five-tenths faster than Clemens [Schmid] on new tyres, and even our race pace was good. I’m not sure what changed from the test to today, so we’ve just got to push hard. Hopefully we’ll have a better car for tomorrow so we can push hard.”
Hasher Al Maktoum, #11 Dubai Falcon Racing Team
“I think it would be great for one of us, and preferably both, to finish on the podium. That was be amazing. It’s our first time doing the [Porsche GT3 Challenge] Cup series, and we’ve made a good start to the season. The Porsche GT3 is a nice car to drive, and it’s very forgiving. I’m looking forward to improving as the year goes on.”
Saeed Al Mehairi, #9 Dubai Falcon Racing Team
“My aim for this race is to finish in the top five, and preferably on the podium. Yesterday’s race went really well for us and I think I can do better, so let’s hope that we can have a clean run. I was not expecting such a strong race yesterday. The competition is really hard, and we were only aiming for the top ten in the first race, and that’s a big confidence boost for the season. We need to understand the car a lot more, and this year it’s all about learning the tracks and learning the car. We’re still a new team, but I think one day we can get a race win.”
Clemens Schmid, #1 Al Nabooda Racing
‘Yesterday was quite a good race! I think a lot of the guys behind ran into trouble because of the two starts. It’s a lot of hardwork for the rear tyres in particular on this track. Today though I think it will be more difficult. I think Abdulaziz [Al Faisal] won’t make the same mistake at the start like yesterday, so he will push quite hard. The first start was strange, but I’m quite used to this from my time in Europe [in the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup] since these things happen. Not necessarily because the safety car is on-track but mainly when there are startline crashes. It’s important in these situations not to think, ‘oh shit, that’s not good!’, and just treat each race as they come.
“I do enjoy Bahrain because of the really fast sweeps, and it can be quite tricky with some of the slower corners. To be honest, I do enjoy Dubai Autodrome probably the most, but we’ve done really well here in the past and hopefully we can continue that.”
Karim Al-Azhari, #2 Al Nabooda Racing
“Yesterday I had a great race. Any time you end up on the podium in such a strong championship, you have to be pleased! Today I start from fifth on the grid, and if I finish in the top six I’ll be pleased. Yesterday I managed to bring in a lot of points for myself and the team. But it’s the first round of championship, a lot of people are a little bit over-excited, and it takes time to learn these new cars, so I’ll be watching my mirrors and trying to stay out of trouble. We’ve been briefed by the race organisers to ‘calm down’ and try to keep our cars under control!”
Ziad Ashkanani, #3 Team BuzaidGT
“I’m hoping we can achieve more of the same in race two. The car is perfect, the team is working really hard, and I’m very comfortable we can get a good result. I’m still learning from each race, so some are going to be trickier than others, but it gives me good experience. Hopefully this year I will get the chance to win a race. Maybe not this weekend but I will be pushing really hard to try and make that happen.”
Jabber Al Khalifa, #5 Team Bahrain
“We did very well in race one. Mohamed [Mattar, #6 Team Bahrain] has the speed and hopefully he can achieve a good result for us. I am only in the car for this race, but if I’m successful then hopefully you’ll see me in the car again later in the year. The team is here to promote Bahrain itself: it’s not enough to just have a presence. But I don’t feel any pressure just because we’re racing on home turf. The only pressure I do feel is trying to avoid any incidents on-track or going off in a big way. Yesterday there was some confusion and hopefully we can avoid anything like that in race two. If anybody makes a mistake, I’ll hopefully be there to take advantage and get a good result.