x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Al Qubaisi fends off Saudi challenge to clinch first GT3 victory

Khaled al Qubaisi scores his first victory in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Yas Marina Circuit, winning Round 8 in thrilling style.

ABU DHABI // Khaled al Qubaisi scored his first victory in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at Yas Marina Circuit yesterday, winning Round 8 in thrilling style to set up a dramatic grand finale to the series at Dubai Autodrome next weekend.

Starting in pole position for the second race in a matter of hours, al Qubaisi again came under intense pressure from defending champion Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal, who was out to repeat his Round 7 win earlier in the day.

But this time al Qubaisi survived to grab the glory on his home track after the Saudi driver spun off on the seventh of 25 laps while trying to snatch the lead, eventually finishing in fifth position.

The Abu Dhabi driver had to work hard though to keep out Saudi's Bandar Alesayi, who finished second, with teenager Fahad Algosaibi grabbing third place, as he had in Round 7 earlier in the day.

In finishing fourth, Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa ended the day as he had begun it, holding a six-point championship lead over Prince Abdulaziz, with al Qubaisi only four points further adrift.

Musaed al Murar, al Qubaisi's Abu Dhabi teammate, celebrated his 25th birthday by finishing sixth overall and winning the rookies' class for the seventh time this season.

Earlier in the day, al Qubaisi had high hopes of a victory in the first race after setting the fastest time in the morning qualifying session and he drove with a lot of composure in the opening stages.

He led for the first 11 of 25 laps but Prince Abdulaziz squeezed by him and never looked back. Both Algosaibi and Sheikh Salman - who had started fifth on the grid - also moved past al Qubaisi on the next lap, but while the Bahraini closed the gap on the Saudi in the dying stages of the race he was never able to get close enough to snatch victory.

"My strategy was to get in front of Fahad, put pressure on Khaled and try and force him into a mistake, and that's what happened," Prince Abdulaziz said. "It wasn't easy, but this was exactly what I was looking for."

Yesterday, it was confirmed that the second of the scheduled three Porsche GT3 Cup races to be held at Yas Marina would be moved back a week, meaning that the final four rounds will now be staged at Dubai Autodrome.