Skydive Dubai Falcons finished their Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge season on a high, sealing the team title with a dominant performance in the final two races at Bahrain International Circuit.
Going into the weekend, Skydive Dubai Falcons were eight points adrift of season-long leaders Al Nabooda Racing and requiring a herculean effort from Hasher Al Maktoum and Saeed Al Mehairi to reel in Clemens Schmid and teammate Ahmed Al Harthy.
As luck would have it, Schmid and main title rival Zain Ashkanani retired in Race 1 of the final round on Saturday, with Al Maktoum and Al Mehairi finishing second and fifth respectively to take home 40 valuable points that catapulted their team to the top of the standings.
However, the Skydive pair were aware that protecting the 17-point lead going into the final race yesterday would not be an easy task and that nothing short of a strong finish could ensure them the team title.
And come the final race of the season, the Skydive duo delivered in style – Al Mehairi finishing second and Al Maktoum completing the podium in third.
— Porsche GT3 ME (@PorscheGT3CCME) April 19, 2015
Ashkanani and Schmid faltered at the last hurdle, managing fourth and fifth place respectively. This gave Skydive Dubai Falcons the team title, eventually finishing 21 points ahead of Al Nabooda Racing.
Saudi Arabia’s Fahad Algosaibi won the final race, adding to his triumph in Race 1 on Saturday.
Schmid, who dominated the season with seven first places from 12 races, dethroned defending drivers’ champion Ashkanani to seal the individual crown by 10 points over his Kuwaiti rival.
For Al Mehairi and Al Maktoum, in just their second season in the one-make series, the late charge not only gave them the team title, but the pair finished third and fourth overall in the driver standings.
Al Maktoum said afterwards: “I’ve had my best weekend of the series so I’m proud of our achievements as a team for Skydive Dubai Falcons. Winning the team title was always the priority and we did it for Dubai.
“Naturally, as a racing driver I’m slightly disappointed not to win today. I felt I did enough and had led for every lap apart the last one.
“To slip down to third was a shame but after standing on the podium with my team-mate, hearing the anthem and knowing that we won the team category was a very special feeling.”
And team-mate Al Mehairi added: “Today we set out with very clear tactics to drive calm, smooth and clean. That’s all we needed to do to win the team title and we stuck to our task.
“It couldn’t have gone any better. Last year we were rookies but we worked so hard. One year on and we’ve won the team title as well as claiming first and second in our silver category. I’m really happy and hope we can defend the title next season.”
After winning the drivers’ title Schmid said: “This weekend didn’t go exactly to plan. Today I pushed as hard as I could without taking any risks but still we didn’t make the podium so we weren’t able to retain the team title.
“I’m pleased to have won the drivers’ championship and I dedicate the win to all at Al Nabooda Racing. Personally, it’s been another great experience. The standard keeps improving and I had to fight all season to secure the title.”
I would have loved to challenge for the UAE Sportsbikes Championship title, but the final race of the season was postponed because of the recent sandstorm and then the organisers opted to cancel the race completely as they said the next three weekends would lead into May which may be too hot for the riders. For me it didn’t make sense – as the final round of the Qatar SuperBike Championship takes place around a similar time in May.
To finish second in the championship is still a great achievement and it’s something the team and I will continue to build on for next season’s campaign. I’m enjoying my racing more as we approach the final round of the Qatar SuperBike Championship at the Losail International Circuit in three weeks. In the lead up to the final leg, I’ve adopted a different mentality – keeping positive and relaxing more – rather than searching for a specific lap time.
I was struggling a little bit mentally in previous rounds, so adopting this mindset has allowed me to get back on the podium again and regain some confidence.
From a bike point of view, our aim is to finish the season the way we started. There are minor problems that we’ll attempt to rectify over the next few weeks in order to be as best prepared for our season defining race.
The power deficit problem came to my attention during the previous round in Qatar where I felt a dip in the performance of the bike. The last time we worked on this part of the bike was at the beginning of the season, and with temperature increasing over the last number of weeks, it’s affected the dyno. As a result, we need to see how much power we’ve lost and what we can do to rectify it before the race.
We need proper time to work through the engine and the gears, and make sure the fuelling is correct. The engine is running smoothly, and thankfully we’ve had no issues at all since the autumn. Normally there is a lot of stress on a racing engine, and added to this is the fact that we competed in two tough championships over the last few months.
Some of the bikes in Qatar in the 600cc event are quite a bit faster than mine, especially on the straight. Losail International Circuit is a fast track and the straight is nearly a kilometre, a point that could prove to be the difference between winning and losing if your bike lacks sufficient power.
Another issue is to work on the strategy of the engine braking in my bike. We didn’t have the chance to look into it as our experience is limited on the use of the software. This is software provided by the HRC (Honda Racing Corporation), and it allows you to connect to the ECU of the bike and change parameters that control the engine, fuelling and engine breaking.
With the bike, what’s happening is that my engine has a standard braking strategy, and that means, if you come from a full throttle to a corner and brake, the engine braking starts to work and it decelerates to make the bike lose speed. There are certain parameters in that software that allow the engine braking strategy to change; it could be aggressive or soft, depending on every rider’s style.
Some like more engine braking so they can stop the bike a lot more and then fire it out of the corner faster, whereas other riders would like to have more corner speed and for them it makes more sense to have more engine braking at the beginning. This helps you carry more speed going into the corner, which suits more the 600s and, in particular, my speed of riding as I’m more of a corner speed style of rider.
So, after a long season with many twists and tales, 17 points separate me from winning the Qatar SuperBike Championship title. It’ll be a challenge, but in racing anything can happen. It would be great to cap off our first season in Qatar with a championship win, but otherwise I’m happy to end the year on a high with two second place finishes. With this, there is the hope that we can go one better next year.
Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid was on the pace in first free practice for the final two rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday evening.
The season finale is being held as part of a support race of the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix where Schmid is hoping to stave off the challenge from Kuwait’s Zain Ashkanani, who set the second fastest time ahead of third-placed Hasher Al Maktoum of the UAE.
Schmid set the fastest time at 2min 05.369sec, which was 0.701sec better than Ashkanani while Al Maktoum was further back 0.810sec off the leader’s pace.
Meanwhile, entering the final round Dubai-based Schmid enjoys a 12-point lead (240) over Kuwaiti defending champion Ashkanani in the drivers’ standings, with Saeed Al Mehairi of Skydive Dubai Falcons in third (177).
Schmid said: “Everything is on the limit this weekend. Pressure is increased to its maximum yet time to prepare on the track is reduced. That might make it difficult for some drivers but I’m used to this.
— Porsche GT3 ME (@PorscheGT3CCME) April 17, 2015
“As a Porsche Supercup driver this is what I live with racing in Europe. I’m leading the championship and plan to stay ahead following the final round.”
And, speaking ahead of practice, manager of the series Walter Lechner said: “For drivers and fans of local motorsport this Porsche series has served up the ideal scenario.
“Ten years ago Porsche first supported the F1 in Bahrain. So it’s very special to now have the deciding final round of a dedicated Middle East championship witnessed by full grandstands as the world of motorsport looks on.
“This is when drivers will feel the pressure and whoever can handle that pressure best will be victorious. For some who embrace the opportunity it will be a dream scenario, sadly for others it could feel like a nightmare. But this is when the best standout. Whoever wins will deserve it.”