x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Clemens Schmid is not taking his foot off the gas in GT3 Cup pursuit

Dubai's Al Nabooda Racing driver Clemens Schmid will ride a six-race win streak into the final weekend of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East this weekend, writes Graham Caygill.

Dubai’s Al Nabooda Racing driver Clemens Schmid, left, does not have to finish first this weekend in Bahrain in order to win the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series title. Courtesy photo
Dubai’s Al Nabooda Racing driver Clemens Schmid, left, does not have to finish first this weekend in Bahrain in order to win the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series title. Courtesy photo

Having spent most of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East out in front on the track, it is no surprise that Clemens Schmid does not plan on changing his strategy as he looks to seal the championship in Bahrain this weekend.

The Austrian has dominated the season, winning eight of the 10 races so far in the campaign, and he holds a 10-point lead ahead of the races Friday and on Saturday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Even though Dubai's Al Nabooda Racing driver does not have to win to be champion, he said he would try to treat the weekend like a normal one.

"Being out in front makes things easier," he said. "There is less risk of being involved in an incident if you are leading and ahead of the pack, and so that is ideally what we will look to do."

The 22 year old added: "I am a little nervous because we have had such a good season and are so close to the championship, but anything can happen in motorsport so I will not relax or celebrate until I know that the championship has been achieved."

Schmid is bidding to be the first non-Arab to win the series. He raced a part-time schedule in the 2011/12 season, which was enough for him to finish third.

He came to the attention of Al Nabooda because of a recommendation by Walter Lechner, the manager of the championship, who had employed him as a driver in the German Porsche Carrera Cup previously.

Schmid said: "Walter said that Al Nabooda were looking for a good European driver to come over and lead their challenge, and I was interested in doing some racing over the winter months so I came over, met the team and it has gone really well."

It has been an almost perfect season for him, the only blot on his copybook being a mechanical failure that forced him out of Race 3 at Yas Marina Circuit in December, and in Race 4 a mistake forced him to settle for second behind Abdulaziz Al Faisal.

Al Faisal, who is going for a third title in the series, has been Schmid's main rival this season.

He has taken maximum points in the two races Schmid did not win and has been second in six of the eight races won by the man from Innsbruck to give himself an outside chance of retaining his championship, thanks largely to the points scoring system that sees the runner-up in each race gain 23 points, only two less than the winner who gets 25.

Schmid believes the pressure from the Saudi Arabian has helped his own performances.

"He has been so consistent and has always been a threat," he said. "It has been good as I have had to really push myself to stay ahead of him and win the races, and I have been pleased with the level I have been able to drive at.

"It is also more interesting when you are having to fight. In Reem [Race 8 last month] it was just a case of trying to concentrate with a gap to everyone else after Abdulaziz had crashed out.

"It means more, to win, if you are in a fight and that is why I am so pleased with this season so far as Abdulaziz has been a great opponent, and I expect him to be right up there again this weekend."

Following the end to the season Schmid will return to Europe as he prepares for a full season in the Porsche Supercup, a championship that is a support series to the Formula One World Championship.

"I am looking forward to it," he said. "I have learnt a lot and think I have improved over the winter and I hope to show what I am capable of in the summer."

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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