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.
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 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.
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.