x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Clemens Schmid edges nearer the finish line after double win in Qatar

The German driver sets the pace in the Porsche GT3 Cup, with Al Nabooda Racing in a strong position to take the team championship back to Dubai.

Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid leads at Losail International Circuit in Qatar on the way to going 10 points clear in the drivers’ championship.
Al Nabooda Racing’s Clemens Schmid leads at Losail International Circuit in Qatar on the way to going 10 points clear in the drivers’ championship.

He may have dominated the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East season with eight wins from 10 races, but Clemens Schmid is not taking anything for granted as he closes in on the championship.

The Al Nabooda Racing driver will take a 10-point lead into the final two races of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit on March 22 and 23 following his two victories in Qatar at the weekend.

Schmid's success has put him within reach of becoming the first non-Arab driver to win the series, and also put the UAE-based Al Nabooda team in sight of winning the team title.

"It was a really good weekend for myself, and for the team," said the Austrian. "Our first priority this season is to take the team title, and obviously we're now in a very strong position to do that.

"Of course, I want to win the drivers' championship and I have a good lead to take to Bahrain. Anything can happen in racing and Abdulaziz [Al Faisal, the defending champion] will try to put pressure on me like he did in Qatar. But I'm confident, and it would be nice to finish off with two more wins."

Schmid has been a dominant force in the Porsche GT3 series since he made his debut last season. He only did a part-time schedule in the 2011/12 season, but in the events he has competed in he has now taken 17 pole positions in 19 races and won 14 times.

Apart from a mechanical failure at Yas Marina Circuit in December in the opening race of the round in Abu Dhabi, Schmid has finished on the podium this season, with eight victories and a second place giving him the edge in the standings.

The Dubai-based driver acknowledged that while he wanted to win the final two races in Bahrain, his points lead ensured that he could afford to drive tactically in Sakhir if needed.

"The title is still not safe and it only takes one mistake," he said. "At least I know I don't have to win the races, just stay ahead of Abdulaziz. So the pressure is on him now."

For his part, Al Faisal, who is the only other man to win a race in the championship this season, is bullish on his chances of winning a third title in four seasons in the series.

The double champion said: "I will be pushing him really hard in Bahrain and I don't believe it is all over yet. I am taking one race at a time." As has been the case throughout the season, Al Faisal was Schmid's closest challenger in Saturday's night race at the Losail International Circuit, with Schmid eventually winning by 1.9 seconds from his rival after leading all 12 laps.

Of his latest victory, Schmid added: "Today was a really hard race, tougher than yesterday. Abdulaziz didn't make it easy and was close behind the whole race until he made one small mistake."

A disappointed Al Faisal said: "It was a tight race between me and Schmid. I pushed him all the way but he kept his composure throughout."

Meanwhile, Christina Nielsen, the first female driver to compete in the series, enjoyed her best finish of the season as she finished fifth on Saturday, winning the Silver Michelin category in the process.

She said: "Today I proved a lot to myself and to others. Qualifying and the race really went perfectly for me. It's a satisfying feeling. Mentally my approach has developed throughout the season. I've learnt how to stay calm, focus and never give up.

"I had set out with the aim this season of winning my category in a race and I've done that now."