x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Qubaisi a close third in GT3

The Emirati secured his second podium finish of the weekend yesterday after taking third place in Round Two of the Porsche GT3 Gulf Cup Challenge.

ABU DHABI // Khaled al Qubaisi secured his second podium finish of the weekend yesterday after taking third place in Round Two of the Porsche GT3 Gulf Cup Challenge at Yas Marina Circuit.

But the Emirati, having secured the race's fastest lap ahead of 15 others, was more excited for his prospects than his performance.

The 34-year-old ToLimit driver spent the summer in Porsche's Supercup series in an attempt to improve on last season's Gulf Cup showing.

And having recorded a lap time of 2mins 15.928secs yesterday, he said that with such a long season ahead, he is now setting his sights on maintaining and improving further.

Al Qubaisi trailed the winner, Prince Abdulaziz al Faisal of Saudi Arabia, by nine seconds, but was only 1.838secs behind second-placed Sheikh Salman al Khalifa, of Bahrain.

"That shows how hard I was pushing," al Qubaisi said following confirmation that he had completed the race's fastest lap.

"I now have the pace and consistency and I want to maintain that all season. If I can keep finishing on the podium every race then I will be happy.

"This is just two rounds; there is another 10 races to go and this gives me so much confidence."

The Porsche GT3 Gulf Cup Challenge took place just hours before the dramatic Formula One season finale and al Qubaisi said the atmosphere will live long in his memory.

"To have a UAE driver on the podium at such a special event really meant a lot to me," he said.

"Being a part of the whole race weekend - the last race of such an exciting F1 season - was just so special.

"The problem now though is that it is going to be almost impossible to top. This is really as good as it gets."

Musaed al Murar, the rookie teammate of al Qubaisi, continued to impress in his debut season.

The 25-year-old Emirati had earlier promised to improve on Saturday's race where he finished in seventh as the highest-placed rookie driver.

He achieved precisely that by holding off Fawaz al Gosaibi of Saudi Arabia and claiming sixth. It was only his second competitive international race.

"It was great, I felt more comfortable in the car and everything went to plan," al Murar said. "I achieved my aim, which was important to me.

"It felt special because I am just a beginner but I finished sixth ahead of more experienced drivers."

The next two rounds of races take place at Sakhir in Bahrain on December 2-3 and al Murar believes the sky is the limit in his fledgling career in the Porsche one-model series.

"I don't know the track at Bahrain at all, so I will need to go there and practice beforehand, but I think I can do better still," he said.

"I always look to improve and if the chance arises to finish fifth, or even fourth, I will be ready to take it."

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Salloum, another rookie who drives for Abu Dhabi Falcon Racing and who was raised in the capital, finished eighth - the same position he achieved on his debut the previous afternoon.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae