The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, an exciting new one-make motor racing series attracting some of the region’s most promising young drivers, will be launched in Bahrain at the weekend.
The 12-round series makes its debut at Bahrain International Circuit this Friday and Saturday (11-12 December) in the first of six big race weekends, with action to follow over the next four months at Abu Dhabi’s spectacular new Yas Marina Circuit and the Reem International Circuit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Designed to identify top Arab and local-based talent in the Middle East and become a platform for entry into the world of international GT and sports car racing, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is a new regional version of the GT3 Cup one-make series already running with huge success in Brazil, New Zealand and the US.
Sponsored by Michelin and Mobil 1, the new race series is organised and managed by Austrian-based Lechner Racing on behalf of Porsche Middle East & Africa.
The 13-strong line-up for the first two rounds in Bahrain at the weekend includes Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal, his cousin Prince Khalid Al Faisal and Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, all very experienced campaigners.
Prince Abdulaziz has contested seven rounds of this year’s Porsche Supercup and scored a top ten finish in Hungary, while Prince Khalid was a race winner in the Supercars Middle East Championship event supporting last month’s Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix. Shaikh Salman had earned a place in the record books in the same series 24 hours earlier as the first ever race winner at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The launch of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East sees 16-year-old Saudi Fahad Algosaibi making his own piece of racing history by becoming the youngest driver to compete in a Porsche worldwide. He has just completed a season in Asia Formula racing where he secured an impressive top five finish.
Leading the challenge for the Saudi-based Reem Racing Team will be Bandar Alireza and Raed Abuzenadah, while team-mate Faisal Binladen will be fighting for "B" race honours along with rookie "B" driver Prince Kahled Al Alwaleed who is tackling his first ever FIA sanctioned race weekend.
Also hoping for a flying start to the series will be another Jeddah-based driver, Bandar Alesayi, Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi and Bahrain-based Dutchman, Jaap Vandrager, while Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, who has solid Porsche GT experience, makes a guest appearance.
They will all drive identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. The brand new 2010 model vehicles, belonging to a special series built by Porsche AG, arrived in Bahrain last week after being shipped from Europe ready for testing on Tuesday (8 December) and Thursday (10 December) ahead of the opening two rounds of the series.
The following two rounds of the series take place at Reem International Circuit on 6-7 January, with Abu Dhabi then hosting a double race weekend at Yas Marina Circuit on 5-6 February and 19-20 February. The series returns to Riyadh for rounds 9 and 10 on 17-18 March, with the final two rounds also taking place at Reem International Circuit on 31 March-1 April.
“We are extremely excited to be launching the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at a time when motorsport in the region is enjoying enormous popularity,” said Deesch Papke, Managing Director, Porsche Middle East & Africa. “We look forward to utilising this region’s fantastic track facilities and to making the series a major success. This adds another chapter to Porsche’s long history of involvement in international motorsport, and again underlines the brand’s unmatched expertise in building successful sports cars for the road and the race track.”
Headed by Walter Lechner, who had great success as a sports car driver with Porsche in the 1980s, Lechner Racing have established a permanent base for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars will be officially handed over to the drivers at the circuit on Tuesday (8 December), when the first test session takes place. A second session of testing will take place 48 hours later before the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East roars to life as part of ‘Speed Weekend Bahrain’ on Friday and Saturday (11-12 December) with the official rounds 1 and 2. Staged to coincide with Bahrain’s National Day celebrations, the two-day race programme also features other races, such as the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Championship.
“Like its counterparts in Brazil, New Zealand and America, the new GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series will be run at the same very high technical level as the Porsche Carrera Cup series which has been staged so successfully worldwide over the last 16 years,” said Walter Lechner, who has managed many Porsche racing teams.” It is designed to develop the competitive driving skills of Arab and Middle East-based drivers standing on the edge of professional motorsport.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is the latest version of one-make series racing which the German manufacturer has been developing on a global scale since launching the original Porsche Carrera Cup in Germany and France in 1990.
Competitors in a one-make series all drive identical, equally well-prepared racing versions of production cars. The main benefits are that costs are minimised, making the sport more accessible, while the emphasis is on driver skill, with no driver having the advantage of a faster, superior vehicle.
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