Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal says he will have to turn up the power when he returns to action in Abu Dhabi next month as he tries to build on his early advantage in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
He leads the 12-round championship as it heads towards the half way point at Yas Marina Circuit on December 15-16, but is feeling the heat from fellow-Saudi Bandar Alesayi, Oman’s Ahmad Al Harthy and Belgian driver Stephane Lemeret.
Alesayi won Round 3 in the UAE capital during the recent Formula 1 weekend and 24 hours later Al Harthy scored his first victory in the series after starting in pole position for the second race in succession.
Two more podium finishes to add to his victory and second place from the opening race weekend at Dubai Autodrome kept Prince Abdulaziz ahead in the championship.
But with Lemeret now looking to improve on his fourth place in the series with Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing, the 2009-10 champion knows he has three serious title challengers hot on his trail.
“The first two rounds in Dubai went very well but the next two in Abu Dhabi were not so good,” he said. “Everybody else seemed to do a better job, and maybe worked harder on their cars.
“Al Harthy was very quick, so was Lemeret, and Bandar has upped his speed dramatically. I wasn’t on the pace at all. I’m not sure if it was the set-up of the car, or whether my head wasn’t quite right.
“But hopefully in the next two rounds I’ll be able to push myself more and that’s what I need to do. The other guys are definitely making me work harder.
“I wouldn’t say I’m under more pressure than I’ve been before. Last season the championship went down to the final round and that’s the most pressure I’ve felt. There are still eight rounds to go this season and it’s too early to predict the outcome.”
While the championship leader looks for a way to widen the gap between himself and the chasing pack, his team-mate, Saeed Al Mouri, will be aiming to close up on the top four.
After making his Porsche GT3 Cup debut at the end of last season, Al Mouri is contesting the championship in full for the first time and has been quietly impressive so far. Arguably the biggest surprise has been the performance to date of veteran Qatari driver Saddon Al Kuwari who follows Al Mouri in sixth place in the championship, having maintained a 100 per cent winning record in the Mobil 1 Trophy for drivers over 45.