x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Karim Al Azhari and Musaed Al Murar get ready for Qatar night race

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East travels to the Losail International Circuit for a first night race. Sports round-up audio

The Porsche GT3 raced in Saudi Arabia, before the Qatar's debut round of the competition.
The Porsche GT3 raced in Saudi Arabia, before the Qatar's debut round of the competition.

DUBAI // The UAE flag will be brightly illuminated under the floodlights of Losail International Circuit this weekend as two experienced Emirates-based drivers compete in Qatar's debut round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.

Karim Al Azhari and Musaed Al Murar will be among an international 18-car field competing in the three-year-old series' first night event. Organisers hope the lure of a floodlit Losail can build on the recent success of races at Yas Marina, Dubai Autodrome and Saudi Arabia's Reem International Circuit in attracting new followers to motorsport.

Al Azhari, the Dubai-based German who finished fourth at Reem earlier this month in what was his first race in the series, is anticipating an action-filled weekend as Porsche GT3 makes its regional debut in the darkness.

"Racing at night is totally different - you rely on being able to read the distance of headlights rather than the distance of the car in front because the lights are sometimes all you can see," said the 39 year old, who has driven 24-hour endurance races at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and the Nurburgring in Germany, and will compete in Qatar for the Al Nabooda Racing team.

"Fortunately, I have experience in endurance racing, so driving at night won't be such an issue. What is more likely to be a test for me will be the fact I have never raced at Losail before. It's a new circuit to me and, as it's only my second weekend racing in the Porsche GT3, I expect it to be tough."

Although it will probably be far tougher for Al Murar, the Emirati driver with Tolimit Arabia.

The 26 year old comfortably secured the series' Rookie Trophy last year before work commitments hindered his hopes of competing this year. The result is, when he lines up on the grid for Friday's penultimate race weekend, it will be the first time he will have raced a Porsche GT3 in almost a year.

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"I really will need to take my time," he said. "I would love to go out and fight at the front, but it's more important I get some running and gradually get used to the car again. It's been a long time, so I must be cautious."

As well as ring rustiness, Al Murar has also never raced at night nor in Qatar. Yet concern is not something that comes natural to him.

"I am very excited for this race, but I do not expect anything to be overly difficult. I have been racing Porsches for two years, so to race at night on a new track might be a test, but I don't expect any nasty surprises," he said.

Abdulaziz Al Faisal, the Saudi Arabian driver who leads the championship by 16 points, knows successive victories in Qatar would put him in an almost unassailable position at the top of the standings as he chases a second title in three years for Al Faisal Racing.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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