HOME-GROWN RACING

WAL­TER LECH­NER, OWNER OF LECH­NER RACING AND FOUNDER AND MAN­AGER OF THE PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHAL­LENGE MID­DLE EAST, WRITES ABOUT HOW THE SE­RIES HAS HELPED POP­U­LARISE MO­TOR RACING IN THE RE­GION.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THE ISSUE -

Wal­ter Lech­ner, owner of Lech­ner Racing and Founder/Man­ager of the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East, writes about how the se­ries has helped pop­u­larise mo­tor racing in the re­gion.

Mo­tor­sport fans have been treated to a thrilling open­ing round of the re­gion's most com­pet­i­tive and most pro­fes­sional racing se­ries, the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East. The new sea­son got un­der­way on Novem­ber 18 at Bahrain In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit as part of the well­known World En­durance Cham­pi­onship. Re­garded as the purest form of racing, with all driv­ers com­pet­ing in iden­ti­cal fifth-gen­er­a­tion Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make se­ries con­sists of 12 races be­tween Novem­ber 2016 and April 2017. With the eighth sea­son of the cham­pi­onship con­tin­u­ing with the aim of pro­vid­ing a plat­form to es­tab­lish more home-grown Arab racing tal­ent, the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East also plays host to some of the lead­ing up-and-com­ing driv­ers from Europe and around the world.

Sea­son 8: Ex­pec­ta­tions

The cham­pi­onship is now a proud bea­con for mo­tor­sport in the Mid­dle East and I've no doubt that the ex­cit­ing com­bi­na­tion of new and ex­pe­ri­enced rac­ers will see our most com­pet­i­tive cham­pi­onship yet. The race for the ti­tle is cer­tainly wide open af­ter the first two rounds for so many driv­ers to grasp.

I be­lieve this sea­son the cham­pi­onship has re­ally come of age with more driv­ers from more coun­tries than ever be­fore. We're ac­cel­er­at­ing to­wards a bright new fu­ture es­pe­cially with an ex­cit­ing trio of teenagers new to the grid; all mak­ing their de­buts, all very tal­ented and all from the re­gion.

The ap­peal

The se­ries is of a high pro­fes­sional stan­dard but at the same time it's open to any­one in the re­gion. It's for all back­grounds and lev­els of racing ex­pe­ri­ence and we are able to train up driv­ers and work with them to en­sure that re­quired li­cences are achieved. They just need to have the pas­sion, the

com­mit­ment and a de­sire to learn.

Where the driv­ers will find the real test is when they are com­pet­ing, test­ing and qual­i­fy­ing. Then they need to work closely with their en­gi­neer­ing teams to look at per­for­mance data and un­der­stand feed­back. It is through this means that we help driv­ers de­velop, one lap at a time.

The se­ries is now very well es­tab­lished. So it is re­garded as a proven path­way to in­ter­na­tional mo­tor racing but also the ul­ti­mate op­por­tu­nity for pas­sion­ate rac­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence pro­fes­sional mo­tor­sport. Since we in­tro­duced the se­ries in 2009, we've been giv­ing re­gional driv­ers the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their skills and bal­ance life with a GT racing ca­reer and we will con­tinue to do so into Sea­son 8 and be­yond.

Why one-make se­ries?

A sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion is that one-make se­ries gives all driv­ers equal con­di­tions to race. It is the fairest form of racing and gen­er­ally al­lows for the great­est amount of driver de­vel­op­ment, as all driv­ers face the same chal­lenge and can work to get to know the car over the sea­son. It cre­ates close bonds be­tween driv­ers and their engi­neers. To­gether they must fo­cus on get­ting the right set-up. Plus ev­ery­one has ac­cess to the same data and parts, and will face the same con­di­tions as all oth­ers on the grid.

Porsche pro­vide the incredible 911 GT3 Cup, which is based on the 911 se­ries pro­duc­tion model – a pure-bred sports car with ex­cep­tional lev­els of power and per­for­mance. It means the driv­ers are racing

in one of the most iconic and suc­cess­ful race cars in the world. It guar­an­tees ex­actly the ex­pe­ri­ence driv­ers want to feel on the track and fans want to watch.

Strengths

Ten years ago we wanted to cre­ate a pro­fes­sional racing se­ries here in the Mid­dle East. It took a lot of time and ef­fort to es­tab­lish but that is what we have man­aged to do. Im­por­tantly, it's been grow­ing. We ad­here to all FIA reg­u­la­tions within the se­ries to de­liver global stan­dards for racing con­di­tions. To add to that, the cars that the guys are driv­ing are elite racing cars and we pro­vide highly trained engi­neers.

The se­ries was al­ways de­signed to pro­vide a plat­form for young Arab racing tal­ent from the re­gion to re­ally progress in mo­tor­sport by driv­ing on their own lo­cal tracks. In the past any­one from the Mid­dle East with a pas­sion for mo­tor­sport had to travel to Europe to get ex­pe­ri­ence and de­velop. There was and re­mains a lack of racing in the re­gion, so giv­ing these guys a pro­fes­sional set-up in which they can grow and de­velop has re­ally helped the se­ries to be­come suc­cess­ful. There is now a struc­ture and an eas­ier path­way. We have teenagers who are stu­dents from a Sun­day to a Thurs­day and racing driv­ers on a Fri­day and Satur­day. That was un­heard of be­fore the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East was es­tab­lished.

The exit of Al Na­booda Racing

Al Na­booda have played a big part in the cham­pi­onship over the last few years and have al­ways done very well as a team. So it is a big loss for us. Hope­fully, when they see the com­pe­ti­tion on the grid and the tal­ent on dis­play they will re­turn in the fu­ture.

Look­ing ahead to Sea­son 8 it means new driv­ers have a good chance of mak­ing their mark early in the se­ries and seiz­ing the chance to be on the podium. Nearly half of the grid are new­com­ers, which makes for an ex­cit­ing and un­pre­dictable sea­son.

Per­son­ally, I love to see new young driv­ers emerge es­pe­cially from the Mid­dle East as it's ex­actly the legacy we wanted to cre­ate. Hope­fully, their tal­ents will flour­ish and spon­sors will back these driv­ers and help them reach their po­ten­tial. We have a new young Omani driver, Al Faisal Al Zubair at 18 years old, Bahrain's 17-yearold Isa A. Al Khal­ifa and 16-year-old Isa S. Al Khal­ifa which shows the di­rec­tion the cham­pi­onship is go­ing. Hope­fully, young racing driv­ers in the UAE will be in­spired to fol­low their dreams and join the se­ries in com­ing years.

GCC Rookie Cham­pi­onship

This is an all-new ti­tle within the Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East.

With a com­pletely new grid in Sea­son 8, and with such promis­ing young lo­cal driv­ers, we wanted to cel­e­brate and en­cour­age those mak­ing their de­buts. Ev­ery­one in­volved in the cham­pi­onship be­lieves this is vi­tal to help­ing the sport grow even fur­ther. To have all the young driv­ers com­pete head to head for this brand-new ti­tle will help these driv­ers learn how to win, how to man­age a race and how to man­age their emo­tions. For us it's an im­por­tant ad­di­tion which is bound to spark even more ex­cite­ment through­out the grid

THE SE­RIES WAS AL­WAYS DE­SIGNED TO PRO­VIDE A PLAT­FORM FOR YOUNG ARAB RACING TAL­ENT FROM THE RE­GION TO RE­ALLY PROGRESS IN MO­TOR­SPORT BY DRIV­ING ON THEIR OWN LO­CAL TRACKS.

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