As the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East heads to Abu Dhabi for its fourth round on Friday, the focus will be on Ryan Cullen and Charlie Frijns at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
However, the duo will have to share the spotlight with an Arab teenage sensation who is turning heads this season.
Omani driver Al Faisal Al Zubair has taken the championship by storm in his debut year. The 18-year-old driver has been fearless on the track and will be looking to continue his impressive form at Yas Marina Circuit.
This season is the first time Al Zubair is racing a Porsche GT3 Cup car but he has been more than competitive out on the circuit, finishing in second and seventh place over two races at the Dubai Autodrome last month.
His runner-up spot in the first race was unprecedented, while his seventh place finish in the second was testament to the teenager’s fighting spirit after dropping from third spot to 11th.
“Overall, I think we proved this weekend that we can run with the top guys. It didn’t go how I wanted it to but they know we have the pace and the capability so we’ll be better in Abu Dhabi,” he said after the third round concluded.
Al Zubair currently occupies an impressive fifth place in the overall standings but has his sights set on winning the Silver Class and Rookie Championship, both of which he leads.
“Winning Silver and winning the Rookie class for the championship and then hopefully more podiums in the overalls and maybe even a race win this season.”
Al Zubair however, remains unperturbed by the buzz around him.
“I think being a young driver having his first season in GTs definitely helps. We’re getting better and better so that’s helping and I’m sure the other drivers are conscious of that so it’s always a good thing.”
Al Zubair began karting in 2014 before taking to the Formula 4 circuit a year later. He then competed in Formula 3 last year but claims he’s most comfortable in GT.
“My personal preference is GT rather than single-seater. I think it suits my driving more.”
Walter Lechner is the manager and organiser of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and is full of praise for the young talent.
“Al Faisal Al Zubair is definitely an outstanding talent. We’re very surprised. Everyday we’re very surprised,” the motorsport legend said.
“Considering it’s his first season in these kind of cars and his age is only 18 and also the fact that he still has a lot to learn, I would say the basics are very good.”
Championship contender Frijns has also been equally impressed with Al Zubair.
“To have so little experience and finish the race in the way he did, I have all the respect for him. It’s very nice that he’s competitive in the Silver class,” Frijns said of the Omani.
The young Arab driver admits he’s even surprised himself but rather than bask in the glory of his achievements, he’s eager to accomplish even more.
“To be honest, I knew I’d be quick but I didn’t think I’d be this quick. Two overall podiums and I think a winning a race in the championship is realistic. I think I’m exceeding what I thought and exceeding what everyone else thought as well.”
When asked what was it that drew him to racing in the first place, Al Zubair delivered a response befitting of a born racer.
“I like the speed.”
With an unprecedented programme that combines both local and international motor racing competitions, this weekend will see a record six championships taking place, including; Formula 4 UAE, the Porsche GT3 Cup, Radical Middle East Cup and the next exciting round of Yas Marina Circuit’s single-make championship TRD 86 Cup.
Adding to the packed motorsport schedule will be the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, which makes its debut at the Circuit this weekend, and will see drivers and their iconic super cars will compete individually or in teams of two across two categories; amateurs and pro-amateurs.
Brand new to Yas Racing Series, Yas Marina Circuit has also developed new hospitality packages, allowing spectators to take in the glamour of the on-track spectacle, while enjoying a range of food and beverage options.
On both Friday and Saturday, spectators will be able to take in both the racing and Belgian Café Brunch located in the Paddock suites, which offers spectacular views of all the racing action.
The four-hour brunch can be enjoyed from 11:00am on both days, with entertainment starting at 12:00 noon, and the four-hour countdown only starts when you arrive.
Brunch goers can enjoy free flowing beverages and a selection of dining options from their la carte menu (AED350 with grape, hops and cocktails/ AED250 soft drinks).
The brunch is also child friendly and for every one full paying adult, one child under 12 can dine for free. The last sitting for brunch will be 5:30pm on Friday and 3pm Saturday.
General admission tickets for the weekend’s racing costs Dh25 per person, with racing underway from 8:40am on Friday and 8:20am Saturday.
Tickets and brunch packages can be purchased from www.yasmarinacircuit.com or calling 800 YAS (927).
More than one hundred of the best urban racers and their street racing machines set the drag strip alight at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday and Sunday for the first round of the Yas Super Street Challenge.
Drivers from across the GCC and as far afield as Russia came to battle it out for AED 25,000 in cash prizes as well as taking one step closer to becoming ‘King of the Street’.
Throughout the two-day event spectators witnessed more than 100 racers putting their souped-up machines to the test in Round 1 of the region’s rawest, grittiest, ultra-competitive environment across five separate categories that included; ‘4×4 Super Street SUV’; ‘Index 11.5’; ‘Index 10.5’; ‘Index 9.0’ and ‘Super Street – Open Category’.
Each of the four rounds will prove vital when it comes to accruing enough points over the season to be ultimately crowned ‘King of the Street’ and rule over their fellow urban racers in this ultra-competitive street challenge.
Setting out his tyre-spinning stall early and proving fastest in the ‘Super Street – Open Category’ in his Ford Mustang, Hisham Ibrahim scooped the AED15,000 top prize when he beat the UAE’s Saeed Ali Saeed in his Nissan GT-R and KSA’s Saud Al Saud, also in a Nissan GT-R, finishing in second and third respectively.
The ‘Index 9.0’ top spot was taken by Alla Hammouri in his Chevrolet Camaro, followed in second by Ojesthingh driving a Lamborghini, with Mohamood Al Attar placing third in his Nissan GT-R.
The ‘4×4’ competition proved to be an epic battle but ultimately Sulaiman Al Khayyat in his GMC prevailed on the quarter mile, leaving Rashed Al Falasi and his Gloria pick-up in second, followed by Abdulla Al Marar driving his Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT in third place.
The Round 1 ‘10.5 Index’ champion in was Adel Al Ghanem, whose Corvette triumphed over Maher Elroz’s Dodge Challenger, with Hesham Al Khateeb’s Porsche clocking the third fastest time.
Finally, Tarish Al Qubaisi in his Mercedes drove a superb series of races to snatch top spot in the ’11.5 Index’ category. Khaled Al Blooshi clinched the runner up spot in his Corvette with Selah Al Mouri collecting a respectable third driving his CLS – Mercedes.
“The first round of Yas Super Street Challenge was the perfect opener to the 2017 motorsport racing season at Yas Marina Circuit. The talent on show grows year on year and this round was no different, it was very competitive and extremely exciting to watch.” said Saud Al Qaydi, Motorsport Manager at Yas Marina Circuit.
Round 2 of Yas Super Street Challenge will take place on 24th and 25th February with tickets starting from as little as AED 50 and AED 30 for students with a valid student ID.
For more information on Yas Super Street Challenge, please visit: www.yasmarinacircuit.com or call 800 YAS (927).