Porsche GT3 Middle East. Round 6, Bahrain. A New Champion

Karim Al-Azhari takes his first win of the 2012/2013 season while Al Nabooda teammate Clemens Schmid secures the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East championship.

It may have taken 12 attempts, but Karim Al-Azhari finally took his maiden victory of the 2012/2013 Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East season in Bahrain. Of course, whilst plaudits came far and wide for Al-Azhari after a fighting drive in the #2 Porsche, there was no doubting the man of the moment: Al Nabooda Racing teammate Clemens Schmid, who secured his first Porsche GT3 Middle East championship with second place.

The Austrian had got his weekend off to a good start by defeating nearest rival – and reigning Champion – Abdulaziz Turki Al Faisal for the victory in race one in Sakhir from pole position. There had, as usual, been no respite from the reigning champ, The Saudi Falcon GT3 remaining locked onto the Al Nabooda machine around the 5.4km Bahrain International Circuit. A slightly heated collar for Schmid certainly, but ATF could not quite get the pass made, meaning the Austrian took a 12-point advantage into the final race of the season.

A race that would be dominated by, rather susprisingly, Al-Azhari. The UAE local legend had stormed his way to race two pole position, and made sure to maintain position with a good drive into turn one. From there, the game of cat and mouse between the Al ANabooda machines began in earnest, Schmid hunting his illustrious teammate down to further secure the points he needed for his first championship and attempt to secure his tenth victory from 12 races. Second though was still enough for Schmid to raise the silverware.

While Al Nabooda celebrated, it had been a similarly strong weekend for The Saudi Falcons. ATF may well have handed his crown to Schmid, but a third in race two alongside his second place the day before, allied to a consistent run of strong results one rather eventful weekend in Saudi Arabia aside – more than demonstrated that the Saudi driver will hungrier than ever on his expected return to the series next year.

Across the garage, it was all smiles for series returnee Faisal Binladen, whose fighting drive to fifth – equalling the position he achieved a day earlier just ahead of Charlie Frijns and Antonio Giancola – was enough to secure the Saudi local victory in the Silver Cup and the class championship ahead of class rivals Zaid Ashkanani and Mohammed Mattar. A strong podium finish for Bahrain’s Mattar in race one though – achieved with a last lap dive past Al-Azhari in race one – gave the local fans plenty to cheer about. A jubilant Manfred Ender also took victory in the Bronze Cup, enough to secure him the class championship.

Organisers of the Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East, series aficionado Walter Lechner among them, lauded the fourth season as ‘the best ever’. A statement new champion Schmid was unlikely to disagree with.

– Shots courtesy of Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup Middle East

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