Al Faisal Al Zubair’s journey in motorsport has taken him from the shallow depths of Middle East racing, to wading the deep end of Europe’s finest.
The transition hasn’t necessarily been seamless, but the marriage binding the Omani’s ambition and talent has made the 19-year-old sensation the poster child for the sport’s potential in the region.
Following an impressive debut in the 2016/17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, in which he captured both the GCC Rookie Championship and Silver title, Al Zubair parlayed his success into a step up to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
Competing for Lechner Racing Middle East, the London student has had a mixed bag of results so far with two non-points finishes, one retirement and two points finishes through five races.
Coming off a promising showing at Silverstone where he crossed in 15th for three points, Al Zubair put on a strong qualifying performance to line-up in 12th for today’s sixth round in Budapest.
Three more races remain after Hungary – Stavelot in August, Monza in September and Mexico City in October – but even if Al Zubair can’t improve on his overall standing of 17th down the stretch, he’s already received an education on what it takes to be a small fish in a big pond.
“My experience so far has been amazing. The competition is very tough and every driver is extremely quick. Sometimes it is good to be amongst such a high level of driving as you find yourself raising your own levels without even noticing,” Al Zubair told Sport360°.
“My results and times are getting better and better with each race, so that is all I can hope for – I will keep working hard until the end of the season.”
Al Zubair started karting at 13 and worked his way up the ranks in Great Britain, including the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, so a foundation was always in place for a move up to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
Yet, he believes the Porsche GT3 CCME prepared him in ways he couldn’t otherwise have experienced, while also giving him a sense of belonging amongst the elite drivers.
“The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East helped me a lot, it taught me the dynamics of how to drive a Porsche, race craft, qualifying and gave me so much track time to get used to racing the car,” he said.
“I came to Europe being on the pace with the car and felt confident to be able to compete within the grid. It’s great to be able to come from a professional set-up in the Middle East as it prepares you for competitions like the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and makes you confident within your own ability.”
Al Zubair will return to the track in Bahrain and Dubai for the competition’s ninth season, which begins in November.
The championship will feature the regional debut of the brand-new Porsche GT3 Cup car and again give young talent a chance to shine and develop.
Al Zubair’s meteoric rise also gives every reason for fellow Middle Eastern drivers to follow suit.
“I believe the Porsche GT3 CCME is the perfect platform to start racing for young Arab drivers. It takes place at the best time of year for weather, you learn the car inside and out, you learn everything about qualifying and improving your speed,” said Al Zubair.
“There is also a real mixture of drivers, amateurs and seasoned professionals, giving every driver a goal and somebody to compete against. So yes, overall I think it is the best way to start and develop and then, if you progress well, there is a potential pathway into Europe.
“I’d like to think I am a great example of that.”