Teenage sensation Al Faisal al-Zubair won the penultimate race of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Season 8 in spectacular fashion at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, as part of the official 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.
A remarkable maiden victory came courtesy of a near flawless performance from pole. The Omani responded to the intense final round pressure to claim the vital race win by 0.678 seconds in the 10-lap race over rivals Charlie Frijns of Qatar in second and Ryan Cullen of Ireland third.
Despite the strong race result for Frijns and finishing ahead of rival Cullen, the Doha-resident will be left with mixed emotions as second place is not good enough to keep his hopes of winning a first drivers’ championship alive. The highest Frijns can now finish is second, which would still represent a best ever season.
After the race Frijns said: “Today’s race was good. Once we got the green light, I didn’t have the best of starts unfortunately. But neither did a couple of others on the front of the grid which meant I didn’t really lose or gain anything position wise. I came out of the first turn in second place and put as much pressure on Al Faisal Al Zubair as I could, I managed to pass him early on, but he did well to take the position back.
“It was a good battle between myself and Al Zubair, it just shows what this championship can do for young drivers, Al Faisal al-Zubair has come in as a rookie, and to win a race in his first season is incredible for him.
“For me, losing the championship to Cullen is very bad but I expected this before the weekend, as he only needed a few points to secure the title. Congratulations to Ryan, he has had a very solid season and a performed well in every race. Tomorrow is the last race of the season and I’m starting in pole position, I hope I can keep the position after the first corner and maintain the lead to win the last race of season 8.”
Yesterday’s third place finish means that ahead of the final race tomorrow Ireland’s Ryan Cullen has secured the overall drivers’ championship for the first time in his career. The Irishman has been a model of consistency and deserves his part in regional motor-racing history.
Speaking after his first Porsche title Ryan Cullen said: “I’m really happy with my performance today, I fell back to sixth on the first corner, but managed to overtake two cars in the first lap. I tried to push for second but knew if I stayed where I was, I would win the championship so there was no need to risk it. I felt under pressure today because in motorsport you never know what is going to happen even if you only need a few points to win it.
“It means so much to win the championship this season. I’ve worked really hard since November and wanted to get the most out of myself, and prove what I can do against a tough grid of competition. My worst position has been fourth, so I’ve remained consistent which is another very important factor for me. It’s great to be able to take this form and confidence into the Porsche Supercup over the summer and I am hoping to end my season with a win tomorrow.”
Debutant Al Zubair stole the show on the biggest stage in Middle Eastern motorsport by establishing an early lead and taking advantage of his qualifying position in a race that beautiful illustrated the competitive present and exciting future of Porsche racing in the region.
After the race he said: “The win today almost makes this a perfect season for me. I said halfway through the season that I thought I had the pace to win a race, and to do it on the last weekend is a dream come true. I can’t wait until tomorrow and hopefully seal the silver championship and end my debut season with the best possible results.”   
The final outcome of this year’s championship is determined over the eleven best results of the season, with all drivers allowed to drop their worst result.