AL FAISAL AIMS FOR TOP-THREE FIN­ISH

Omani racer hopes to use his Su­per Cup ex­pe­ri­ence in the forth­com­ing Porsche GT3 Chal­lenge Mid­dle East

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS - Ashok Puro­hit

2017-18 PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHAL­LENGE MID­DLE EAST

Six months of rac­ing at the top-level across some of the big­gest cir­cuits can cer­tainly bring in quite a few changes in a teenager. On Mon­day, when Oman's tal­ented racer Al Faisal al Zubair walked in at the pre­sen­ta­tion room of the Shangri-La Barr al Jis­sah Re­sort and Spa to ad­dress me­di­a­per­sons, he was far from ner­vous and dis­played lot of ma­tu­rity while re­ply­ing, a cue enough to mea­sure the teenager’s progress as a driver on a pro­fes­sional cir­cuit over the past few months.

The 19 year old Al Faisal, who had launched Team FZ Rac­ing, at the same ho­tel in May, had re­cently fin­ished his maiden sea­son with the Porsche Mo­bil 1 Su­per Cup, a world-class en­durance cham­pi­onship, with an over­all 14th-place fin­ish.

Bol­stered by the en­cour­ag­ing re­sults in the Su­per Cup, that wit­nesses the best Porsche driv­ers in ac­tion, the young Omani is now eye­ing noth­ing less than an over­all top-three fin­ish at the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East, which be­gins its ninth sea­son from Novem­ber 16 at the Bahrain In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit.

The con­fi­dence and ease with which Al Faisal walked on to the dais on Mon­day was in sharp con­trast to his ner­vous­ness when he ad­dressed me­dia dur­ing the launch of his Team FZ Rac­ing six months ago.

Al Faisal said, “The learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the Su­per Cup sea­son has def­i­nitely made me a much bet­ter driver.

“It was one of the best things to hap­pen. Su­per Cup turned out to be an amaz­ing plat­form for me. I learned a lot more than I thought at the start.”

“It was just not the race pace that I im­proved but my in­terac- tion with world-class driv­ers like the Su­per Cup cham­pion and my team­mate at Lech­ner Rac­ing, Michael Am­mer­muller, that made me re­alise the im­por­tance of thor­ough race preparations.

“In the Su­per Cup held on the For­mula One cir­cuit, we just get an hour to get used to the track - 30 min­utes for prac­tice and 30 min­utes for qual­i­fy­ing. There is hardly any time and it is a chal­lenge to get a fair idea of the cir­cuit, which could make a big dif­fer­ence.” said the Omani.

Hav­ing man­aged a top-15 place among 30 driv­ers in the de­but sea­son, Al Faisal now heads into the win­ter Porsche

GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East ooz­ing with con­fi­dence.

Dur­ing the 11 Su­per Cup rounds he raced in Barcelona, Monaco, Spiel­berg, Sil­ver­stone, Bu­dapest, Spa, Monza and Mex­ico and gar­nered 28 points with six top-15 fin­ishes. His best re­sult of the sea­son was at the Hun­garor­ing cir­cuit in Bu­dapest, where he got seven points for his eighth place.

His achieve­ments also earned

Oman a tenth place in the Na­tions’ Cham­pi­onship. Al Faisal also had a stint with Porsche Car­rera Cup Ger­many and raced in three rounds.

Al Faisal also spoke about the sight of thou­sands of fans at the F1 cir­cuit and ad­mit­ted be­ing “ner­vous” ini­tially but then got used to it. He was de­lighted to share the pad­dock with some of his idols.

It was only last sea­son that

Al Faisal had made a last­ing im­pres­sion at the Mid­dle East Chal­lenge when he won the GCC Porsche GT3 Rookie Tro­phy and took the top hon­ours in the sil­ver cat­e­gory. He had also fin­ished an over­all fifth.

The com­ing sea­son will be much more chal­leng­ing with quite a few young and tal­ented driv­ers in fray but Al Faisal be­lieves that the Su­per Cup ex­pe­ri­ence will give him the edge.

“My Su­per Cup stint makes me feel com­fort­able for the forth­com­ing Mid­dle East se­ries. I am now ready to bat­tle for an over­all top-three place.

“The up­com­ing races will be the per­fect ground to put my past six-month ex­pe­ri­ence to op­ti­mum use,” he said.

The 12-race sea­son kicks off with rounds one and two at the Sakhir cir­cuit in Bahrain (Novem­ber 16-18) fol­lowed by races at the Dubai Au­to­drome (De­cem­ber 8-9 and Jan­uary 26-27), Yas Ma­rina in Abu Dhabi (Fe­bru­ary 2-3), and the fi­nal four races back in Bahrain on (March 16-17 and April 6-8).

Al Faisal had a fruit­ful test­ing ses­sion last week in Bahrain where he clocked the fastest time in the first prac­tice ses­sion and then fin­ished sec­ond in the other ses­sion.

On Mon­day, Al Faisal re­ceived a pat of en­cour­age­ment from ex­pe­ri­enced Omani star, Ah­mad al Harthy, who was present on the oc­ca­sion. “Al Faisal has had a promis­ing de­but sea­son in Porsche Mo­bil 1 Su­per Cup and it would give him lot of con­fi­dence for the forth­com­ing Mid­dle East Chal­lenge. I wish him all the best and hope he earn more lau­rels for him­self and for Oman,” he said.

A file photo of Al Faisal al Zubair com­pet­ing in his car (front) dur­ing the Porsche Car­rera Cup Ger­many at the Nur­bur­gring cir­cuit

Al Faisal al Zubair is all smiles dur­ing the press con­fer­ence on Mon­day

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