x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Clemens Schmid plans a strategic command in Abu Dhabi

Austrian leads ahead of Yas Circuit events in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.

Clemens Schmid, left, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East leader, and second-placed Abdulaziz Al Faisal, the reigning champion.
Clemens Schmid, left, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East leader, and second-placed Abdulaziz Al Faisal, the reigning champion.

Clemens Schmid had it all his own way in the opening two rounds of this season's Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East in Bahrain and he is looking for more of the same at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend.

The Austrian, who is driving for the Al Nabooda Racing team this season, had a perfect weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit as he won both races from pole position and led from start to finish.

The 22 year old and the other 15 drivers competing in the series will race in Round 3 on Thursday in Abu Dhabi and then Round 4 on the Friday, and his aspirations are to make it four wins out of four.

"It's been a strong start to the season and that's what I wanted," he said. "I just want to keep going. With a good strategy, I am confident myself and Karim [Al Azhari, his Emirati teammate with Al Nabooda] can reproduce our good performance from Bahrain and continue our fine form."

His nearest challenger this weekend is expected to be Abdulaziz Al Faisal, the reigning champion.

The Saudi Arabian driver, who has won the title twice in 2009/10 and then in 2011/12, was unable to match the pace of Schmid in Bahrain, but still picked up solid second and third-place finishes in the two races to sit in second place in the championship, six points adrift of his rival.

But Al Faisal is hopeful of better at Yas Marina Circuit, a venue that he has triumphed at in the past.

"I'm looking forward to racing in Abu Dhabi and hope to pick up a win over the weekend," he said. "It's a circuit that can really inspire you and all the drivers will want to prove themselves.

"I'm only six points behind and with solid drives in both rounds I believe I can put some pressure on Clemens before we head to Dubai."

When proceedings begin on Thursday, Schmid will begin as favourite, but Walter Lechner, the manager of the series, is confident that he will be more closely then he was in Bahrain, where the second race was won by an emphatic margin of more than eight seconds.

Lechner said: "In Bahrain, Clemens was at his best and produced two stunning performances back to back in both qualifying and the races. But there is little between the leading drivers and I expect more close battles in Rounds 3 and 4."

Also expected to be fighting for podium positions in Abu Dhabi is the 2010/11 champion Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Al Azhari, Kuwait's teenage prodigy Zaid Ashkanani and Faisal Binladen of Saudi Arabia.

Al Azhari, who is the UAE's lone driver in the series, is currently fourth in the championship standings having picked up respective third and fourth-place finishes in Bahrain.

Following the two races in Abu Dhabi, the 12-round championships heads to Dubai Autodrome for races on December 13 and December 14.

* Agency