A UAE racing team will make their debut against some of the top drivers in the Arab world in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in Dubai at the weekend
Al Nabooda Racing announced their entry into the Porsche one-make series yesterday.
Karim Al Azhari, the reigning UAE GT champion, and Stephane Lemeret, a former Belgian Touring Car champion now in the 18th season of his career, are the team's two official drivers.
All the Porsche racers have been fine-tuning their cars this week as official pre-season testing got under way at Yas Marina Circuit yesterday.
Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal, aiming to win the series for the second time in three years, and the Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy, were among the drivers tackling the test sessions ahead of the start of the 2011/12 season at Dubai Autodrome on Friday.
Saudi pair Bandar Alesayi and Saeed Al Mouri were also in action on the grand prix circuit as the brand new 2012 model Porsche GT3 Cup cars went into action for the first time.
Dubai-based Al Nabooda Automobiles is the largest single Porsche dealership in the world and Vijay Rao, the team manager and general manager, said the GT3 Cup provided them an ideal opportunity to get involved.
"There is a very strong link between Porsche and motor racing, and the brand has a long and successful history in the sport," he said.
Prince Abdulaziz, who won the first ever race in the series when it was launched in December 2009, is one of the favourites to clinch the 12-round championship and will be looking for another flying start in Dubai at the weekend.
But he faces a stiff challenge from Al Harthy, a newcomer to the series but who is out to make an immediate impact, and everything points to a competitive GT3 Cup title battle.
And Rao said he was hopeful his drivers would be among the leading contenders, too.
"We're delighted to have two such capable drivers on board," he said.
"Karim has had a long and successful association with Al Nabooda Racing. We're certain that Stephane's great experience will be invaluable to the team as a whole, and that he and Karim will benefit from working together to produce the best results for Al Nabooda Racing."
Al Azhari said: "It's an honour for me to be driving for Al Nabooda Racing in this race series. I have a special affinity towards Porsche and am also the president of the Porsche Club UAE. I have been in good form this year and I hope to do well in the championship.
Following the opening two rounds in Dubai on Friday and Saturday, the GT3 cars will return to the UAE capital as part of the race support programme for the 2011 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 11-13.
* Compiled by The National staff with agencies