Powering to its eighth season of top flight motorsport, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East represents the ultimate opportunity for prospective motor racers to compete in a professional racing environment, refining their skills for global competition.
Over the previous seven series, drivers have gone to race in competitions, such as the elite Porsche Supercup, the World Endurance Championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and even single seater GP2.
Launching at the Bahrain International Circuit on November 19, the series gets underway as part of the 6 Hours of Bahrain, the finale weekend of the World Endurance Championship, giving racers an immediate immersion into an FIA-run competition.
Rounds 2 and 3 will see the series travel to Dubai from December 9-10 and January 27-28, 2017 respectively, before a trip down to Abu Dhabi on February 10-11 following the series’ hugely successful return to Yas Marina circuit last year. Bahrain International Circuit will be the venue for the closing weekends with Round 5 running from March 3-4 and the season finale as an official support race of the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix in April next year.
Speaking ahead of the new season, Walter Lechner, manager and organiser of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, said: “The series is open to anyone in the region, of all backgrounds and levels of racing experience and we are able to train drivers and ensure that required licenses are achieved.
“Where the drivers will find the real test is when they are competing, testing and qualifying, working closely with their engineering teams to look at performance data and understanding feedback.
“It is through this that we help drivers develop.”
Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series consists of 12 races between November 2016 and April 2017, giving an unrivalled opportunity for track time to young racing hopefuls.
The top 34 Rotax drivers out of 72 in each class proceeded to the final day of racing where they will contest the grand final to determine the World Champion in each respective class.
Abdullah Al Rawahi has been the star for Team Oman with a fifth place topping his heat performances, giving cause for real optimism going into the pre-finals.
On a very slippery track and wet tyres, the conditions in the pre-final were treacherous at best but, remaining in contention with the leaders, he would bring his kart home safely in 9th place to guarantee him a place in the showpiece event.
Reigning Indy Lights champion, Dubai-based Ed Jones, performed admirably but could not make up the vital places he needed to join Al Rawahi in the final.
Taymour Kermanshahchi, on the other hand, rode his luck as his pre-final was stopped due to extreme rain. He was tipped into a spin on the opening lap and was in the middle of a fight-back when the race was halted. The race was continued after the weather improved slightly and Kermanshahchi took full advantage, picking off his rivals systematically until he crossed the line in 13th place. Penalties for two of his rivals promoted him further to 11thplace and he joins Al Rawahi in the grand final.
In the MAX class Pasqual Pook endured a tense wait for final clarification and crossed the line in 15th place which was enough to qualify but a 10 second penalty almost cost him his final place.
Kermanshahchi impressed with a great drive through the field in Mini MAX and, coupled with penalties applied to drivers ahead of him, was classified in 11th place which gives him an excellent platform for the Grand Final.
Rashid Al Dhaheri and Oscar McElroy both made forward progress in the Micro MAX Pre-Final to finish 21st and 19th respectively. If they can do the same in the final a top-15 finish is realistic although both are hoping for much more. The Micro MAX Final will be the first race of day seven and will follow the driver’s parade where young Emirati national, Al Dhaheri, will carry the UAE flag with his team mates.
For each of the six Team UAE drivers who have qualified for the Grand Final, action on Sunday includes a brief morning warm-up and the official driver’s parade before the main event in the afternoon which will be followed by the trophy presentation to the class Champions.
The drivers (and race numbers) representing Team UAE and Oman at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2016 are:
Micro Max 43 – Oscar McElroy (Top ranked UAE-based Micro MAX competitor)
Micro MAX 44 – Rashid Al Dhaheri (Leading Micro MAX Emirati National)
Mini MAX 83 – Ziggy Kermanshahchi (Top ranked UAE-based Mini MAX competitor)
Junior MAX 166 – Tehmur Chohan (UAE Junior MAX Runner-Up)
Junior MAX 167 – Lucas Petersson (Top ranked UAE-based Junior MAX competitor)
MAX 267 – Pasqual Pook (UAE MAX Champion)
MAX 268 – Giulio Peroni (UAE MAX Runner-Up)
DD2 365 – Abdullah Al Rawahi (Oman DD2 Champion)
DD2 366 – Taymour Kermanshahchi (Former UAE Junior MAX Champion)
DD2 369 – Edward Jones (Indy Lights Champion 2016)
DD2 Master 471 – Anthony Hogg (UAE DD2 Master Runner-Up)
DD2 Master 472 – Hussain Umid Ali (UAE DD2 Master Champion)
In his first race since suffering a serious crash six months ago, Mohammed Balooshi reached the podium to finish third in the first round of the Emirates Desert Championship.
The fourth season of the UAE’s national Baja rally championship for cars, buggies, motorcycles and quads kicked-off on Friday, with the opening round held in Dubai.
For the motorcycles, Balooshi was only beaten by winner Sam Sunderland and Ross Runnalls, who crossed in second. Only provisional results came out on Friday with official ones set to be revealed today.
“I’m quite happy and pleased with the outcome because there were around 95 riders, so it was a big turnout,” Balooshi said. It was the Emirati’s first competitive race since a crash at April’s Sealine Cross-Country Rally left him injured with a fractured knee and concussion.
Speaking to Sport360 in September, Balooshi revealed he had made the local Emirates Desert Championship a priority this season after coming up short with second place finishes overall in the past two years.
Although he has plenty of work left to do to reach his goal, Balooshi said when asked if he’s heading in the right direction: “The podium proves it and I think I’m only going to get better during the season because when you don’t race for that long, you’re not as sharp. I’ve been training four months now flatout, but races are different. There’s still a lot more room to improve and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m more hungry for it now.”
It would be natural for Balooshi to be lacking physically following a lengthy layoff, but the 37-year-old believes all the hard work he put in during his recovery process is paying instant dividends.
“My fitness was good, I was pleased with that. This summer I really worked my butt off and I was happy with my progress,” he said. “My fitness was exactly how I left it before the injury. So I’m 100 per cent back. I think I’m only race rusty, but I think it will get better for round two. Now I know what I need to focus on and how much work I need to put in to improve.
“It’s good. I’m very stoked and happy about this comeback.”
Balooshi will return to the dunes for the second round of the competition, held on Friday, November 11.
The Emirates Desert Championship is organised by the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF), with the support of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE). It comprises of five rounds, scheduled from now until February next year.