ABU DHABI // Bandar Alesayi had said before the start of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East season that he was ready to raise his game and become a championship contender.
The Saudi Arabian driver backed up those words in emphatic fashion on Saturday as he claimed victory in the first race of the series as part of the support race schedule for the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
He took advantage of a mistake from Ahmad Al Harthy on the opening lap to take the lead, and strong speed on the two long straights at Yas Marina Circuit kept him ahead for the rest of the 14-lap race.
Al Harthy, who had started on pole, had led the first half of the opening lap, but ran wide at Turn 14 and as he scrambled for grip on the kerb Alesayi swooped around the outside.
Alesayi said: "Ahmad made a mistake and I was able to get past him. It's the perfect start to the weekend for me."
He now shares the lead in the championship with compatriot Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal, who finished third on Saturday after holding off a strong challenge from Stephane Lemeret.
Al Harthy starts from pole in Sunday's second race, with Al Faisal alongside him on the front row, and Alesayi in third.
Elsewhere, Fabio Leimer dominated the GP2 Final feature race to take victory.
The Swiss driver led from the start and was only headed briefly during the pit stops as he won from the Brazilian Luca Razia, and he said he had plenty in reserve.
"I could have gone quicker but I was driving smoothly to save the rear tyres to make sure that if there was a safety car at the end I would have no problem," he said.
Further back Tom Dillmann put himself in good position for a financial payout from Pirelli after finishing sixth.
The Frenchman was the highest finisher to have come from GP3, and Pirelli, who supply the tyres for the series, will give €15,000 (Dh74,700) to the GP3 driver with the highest points total from Saturday's event and Sunday's sprint race.
Nick Tandy won the Porsche Supercup race ahead of Rene Rast, with Khaled Al Qubaisi, the Emirati driver, finishing in 17th place in his Team Abu Dhabi car.
The result was enough for Rast to retain his drivers' title in the competition.