ABU DHABI // Khaled al Qubaisi, the Emirati driver, is aiming for a victory in today's Porsche GT3 Gulf Cup Challenge second round after securing the first podium of his career in yesterday's season-opening race at Yas Marina Circuit.
Al Qubaisi finished third, only 0.746secs behind second-placed Prince Abdulaziz al Faisal of Saudi Arabia and 1.117secs behind the winner, Sheikh Salman al Khalifa of Bahrain.
The Abu Dhabi-born driver finished qualifying third-fastest but was forced to start the race in fifth place after being ordered to drop back two positions on the starting grid following a steward's inquiry.
Al Qubaisi, however, enjoyed a positive start to the season, capitalising on his opponent's mistakes and stealing third place before the first turn.
He then proceeded to retain his position without ever really pushing to go one better.
"I am very happy," he said of the race.
"It is my first podium in this series and I didn't even push for second as I didn't want to get tangled up with Prince Abdulaziz. I was happy just to finish on the podium."
Al Qubaisi, 34, spent the summer competing in the Porsche Supercup in an attempt to improve on last year's debut season in the Middle East series.
Last night, he hailed the experience he has gained and said he will be pushing even harder in today's second race, which starts at 2.45pm.
"My experience in the Supercup is definitely paying off," he said. "I am much faster and I have cut out the mistakes that caused me problems last year. Many people, in fact, had me as a favourite before [yesterday's] race because I am driving so much better.
"But Prince Faisal has nine years driving experience and Sheikh Salman has around five, I think, whereas I have only one, so it was a big task and I am just pleased to be up there.
Musaed al Murar, Al Qubaisi's compatriot, teammate and one of three drivers flying under the UAE flag, impressed in his debut race, finishing seventh and claiming the trophy for fastest rookie.There are seven competing this season. Al Murar said he believes he can go one place better today.
Ibrahim Salloum, another rookie, was born in London but raised in the capital and drives for Abu Dhabi Falcon Racing. He finished eighth.