It’s tempting, given his most recent double victory at the Losail International Circuit in the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East, to say that Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Scmid has this year’s cup in the bag. And you’d be wrong.
Of the ten rounds run this year, Clemens Schmid has won eight of them, and heads to the season finale in Bahrain with a ten point advantage over closest rival Abdulaziz Turki Al Faisal. Even the Austrian though has admitted that the race is far from over, and there are several reasons why I have to agree.
That man AlFaisal is the most obvious: the only other man to have won a race (actually two) in 2012/2013 and who currently lies second in the standings. The fact that the Saudi driver also happens to be the reigning Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East champion – plus the technical strength of The Saudi Falcons crew – is proof enough that he knows how to get the job done.
Granted, circumstances meant that his double victory at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi could easily have gone to another competitor, but it’s also fair to say that bad luck here and there throughout the season has robbed the Saudi Arabian of vital points. Indeed, the fact that ATF was able to race at all following his barrel rolling antics on home turf at the Reem International Circuit last time out is a bonus in itself, never mind the points lost from a potential fifth place finish.
You’d also be forgiven for thinking that such an incident would see the reigning champ playing it safe this weekend, the focus on banking points rather than potentially throwing the GT3 at the kitty litter in pursuit of victory. But no. Race two, like race one, may well have gone the way of Schmid but his rear mirror was VERY full of the pursuing Red Bull machine well into the final stages of the race. Proven consistency and a deep desire to win means the possibility of the #7 Saudi Falcons car leaving the opposition for dust and scampering to victory – and title glory – in Bahrain is not as farfetched as it seems.
Of course, Al Faisal is just one of Schmid’s potential Achilles’ heels. Others include Faisal Binladen (AlFaisal’s Saudi Falcons teammate), Zaid Ashkanani and Mohammed Mattar, headliners in the Silver Cup who have stepped up their respective games considerably as the season has unfolded. Having found his feet in the opening round after three years away from full-time GT3 competition, Faisal has been on a roll since securing his first podium (and first front row start) of the season in Saudi Arabia.
In Qatar, the Saudi Falcons machine was part of an early three-way fight for third position early on, and despite a late lunge from Al Nabooda Racing’s Karim Al-Azhari eventually relegating the Saudi driver to fifth, a sixth in race two shows the young Saudi driver has the speed to be a genuine podium contender from hereon in. And the last thing Schmid needs is another fast Saudi Falcons rival.