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Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge arrives to Abu Dhabi

One-make cups in the Middle East and Gulf region havent really proved to be successful. This now might change with the new Porsche Cup Middle East.

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, makes its UAE debut at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit this weekend with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal holding an impressive early lead in the championship.

The 12-round series made its debut at Bahrain International Circuit in December with Prince Abdulaziz and his cousin and team-mate, Prince Khalid Al Faisal, both getting off to a flying start, scoring one race win and one second place each.

When the series made history as the first international circuit racing event ever to be run in Saudi Arabia last month, Prince Abdulaziz marked the historic occasion with back-to-back wins in rounds three and four to open up a 14-point championship lead over Prince Khalid.

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 11-strong line-up for rounds five and six at Yas Marina Circuit tomorrow and Saturday (February 5-6) includes Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, who earned a place in the record books as the first ever race winner at the track last November in the Supercars Middle East Championship

Prince Khalid also returns to the circuit with good memories, as 24 hours after Sheikh Salman’s victory he won a round of the same series which was supporting the first Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

No-one will be more eager to give a good account of himself this weekend than Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi, who took up sport car racing only last August and, despite being the most inexperienced competitor in the series, showed with his fifth place in Round 4 that he is a fast learner.

Leading the challenge for the Riyadh-based Bison Reem Racing Team is Bandar Alesayi, lying third in the championship, while team-mates Raed Abuzenadah and Bandar Alireza have arrived in Abu Dhabi sharing fifth position. Another Reem driver, Faisal Binladen, will be protecting his lead in the Mobil 1 Trophy for rookies and true amateur drivers over the age of 45.

Raed Abuzenadah is not only competing in the Porsche Cup but also proved to be very successful in other championships as well as in managing Saudi Arabias state-of-the-art Al Reem Circuit, which is already considered to be one of the most successful and most promising facilities in the region.

He again faces competition from Bahrain-based Dutchman, Jaap Vandrager, and from Bahrain-based Saudi businessman, Fawaz Al Gosaibi.

Al Gosaibi’s teenage son, Fahad, made history at the start of the series by becoming the

the youngest driver to compete in a Porsche worldwide. He had just completed a season in Asia Formula racing where he secured an impressive top five finish and, having already scored podium finishes in Bahrain and Saudi, he will be aiming for more of the same in Abu Dhabi.

The drivers will all be at the wheel of identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, with the brand new 2010 model vehicles, belonging to a special series built by Porsche AG, having made their world competitive debuts in Bahrain.

Next in the series the Yas Marina Circuit hosts another race weekend on February 19-20, while the championship returns to Reem International Circuit for rounds 9 and 10 on 17-18 March and for the final two rounds on 31 March-1 April.

“We are extremely excited to have launched 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.

“Like its counterparts in Brazil, New Zealand and America, the new GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series is 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.

Although the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is not the first one-make cup in the region, it is surely promising to be one of the most popular cups in the Middle East if it receives a little bit more media and public awareness, especially if done through a wide-spread TV coverage.

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