AL FAISAL BE­GINS WITH A BANG IN BAHRAIN

Early col­li­sion and a late punc­ture forces fel­low Omani racer Khalid to drop to 15th po­si­tion

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Ahead of the sec­ond round of the 2018-19 Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East at the Bahrain In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Oman's young Al Faisal al Zubair had ex­pressed his love to race on his 'favourite' cir­cuit.

And on Fri­day, the 20 year old de­fend­ing cham­pion came up with a scin­til­lat­ing dis­play of grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion to win the first of the three races in the

sec­ond round to con­tinue his ex­cel­lent start to the sea­son.

Al Faisal had be­gun the sea­son with two race wins and a sec­ond-place fin­ish in the first round in Dubai, UAE, last month. The Omani ex­tended his dom­i­nance with yet an­other win to make it three wins out of the four races held so far.

The Wal­ter Lech­ner Rac­ing star led from pole po­si­tion, slipped to fourth on the open­ing lap and then fought back to fend off a chal­lenge from Bahrain’s Sheikh Isa al Khal­ifa to win the race by 4.976 sec­onds and ex­tend his lead over an ab­sent

Tio El­li­nas in the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship.

Fel­low Omani Khalid al Wa­haibi was not so for­tu­nate and was in­volved in an in­ci­dent with Jean-Bap­tiste Sim­me­nauer early in the race that pushed him back to 16th.

The young­ster climbed back to 12th, but then suf­fered a rup­tured tyre on the penul­ti­mate lap and was forced to pit one lap from the fin­ish and was clas­si­fied 15th in the fi­nal re­sult.

The two re­sults meant Team Oman con­tin­ued to have a com­fort­able lead in the Team cham­pi­onship stand­ings ahead of Team Bahrain and Team Swe­den.

Fol­low­ing Isa al Khal­ifa at third spot was Michael de Que­sada.

Speak­ing af­ter the race, Al Faisal said, “Qual­i­fy­ing was good and I was happy to get a pole po­si­tion by a few tenths.

“My re­ac­tion was good at the start of the race. I be­lieve I had not warmed up my rear tyres enough. I had a lot of wheel spin from the start and I went back to fourth and then had a bit of con­tact with Leon Koehler.

“I dam­aged my steer­ing col­umn a lit­tle bit, but we had good speed. Be­ing ag­gres­sive was the strat­egy and I went up to third af­ter one lap and then, af­ter three laps, I took sec­ond place.

“I was be­hind Isa (al Khal­ifa) for a lap and I chal­lenged him and opened the gap and man­aged the tyres to the fin­ish. Tyre man­age­ment was the key to the win.”

A dis­ap­pointed Khalid said, “Things did not go ac­cord­ing to plan. I did not have the best qual­i­fy­ing [P8]. I had a good start and man­aged to get into fifth place. Un­for­tu­nately, on lap three, I got hit from be­hind by Sim­me­nauer.

“I spun and got into the gravel and, by the time I had re­cov­ered, I dropped to last place. But I made a de­cent progress but then, on the penul­ti­mate lap, my tyre rup­tured and I had to re­tire. I will try and bounce back to­mor­row for the next two races.”

Ear­lier, Al Faisal claimed pole po­si­tion in a red flag-in­ter­rupted ses­sion. The Omani carded a best lap of 2min 02.720sec in the last ten min­utes af­ter the restart and that put him 0.235 sec­onds faster than Sheikh Isa. Tur­key’s Berkay Besler was third.

Al Faisal al Zubair (cen­tre) stands on the podium af­ter win­ning the first race of the sec­ond round of the Porsche BWT GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East Se­ries at the Bahrain In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, on Fri­day

Al Faisal al Zubair (front) drives his car dur­ing the sec­ond round in Sakhir, Bahrain, on Fri­day

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