Austrian falls one point short of retaining drivers' title
Overall victory eludes Schmid in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East finale
Victory in the final race of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East season on Saturday in Bahrain was not enough for Clemens Schmid to claim the drivers’ title ahead of Kuwaiti driver Zaid Ashkanani.
Third place for Ashkanani at the Bahrain International Circuit ensured that he denied Schmid a second successive championship by a single point.
Starting the race in fifth place, Ashkanani needed to finish in the top three to guarantee his first title in the series if Schmid, his closest rival, triumphed.
Schmid did what he needed to do, having gone into the race trailing Ashkanani by five points in the standings, as he converted pole position into the lead at the start and then led to the finish.
Ashkanani was fifth in the early stages, but he moved up to third midway through the race as he came out on top of a battle with Karim Al Azhari and Abdulaziz Al Faisal, the double champion.
Schmid acknowledged that he found the season’s result hard to accept after falling short by such a narrow margin.
“Obviously I am disappointed as I wanted to be drivers’ champion,” the Austrian said. “I have worked hard all season to secure victory, and to lose by just one point is extremely hard to take.”
Ashkanani had won the first round of the weekend on Friday, ahead of Schmid, with those extra points proving decisive in deciding the destination of the title.
Schmid had led much of the championship, but his title bid aspirations were dented last month at the Dubai Autodrome when, having collided with a rival in the opening race, he was banned from competing in the second race by stewards, allowing Ashkanani to take the championship lead, which he held on to in Bahrain.
It was not all bad news for Schmid, though, as his efforts, along with teammate Al Azhari, ensured that Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing retained the team title.
“I have some consolation in Al Nabooda Racing taking home the team title, which is well-deserved,” Schmid said.
“As a group we have put in a huge amount of effort across the 12 races, and it’s great that we once again have the trophy for the cabinet.”
Meanwhile, Saeed Al Mehairi said that he and the Skydive Dubai Falcons team could be pleased with their efforts, having finished third overall in the team competition.
Hopes of beating Saudi Falcons to second spot were wrecked after Al Mehairi’s teammate, Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, was unable to start yesterday’s race.
Al Mehairi finished in sixth place and said: “Our first season in the competition has been filled with some great highs and to finish as the third best team in a hugely competitive series gives us a platform on which we hope to build.
“Today was an action-packed race and I was happy to move up to finish sixth in what was a very tense battle. Concentration and focus was the key again today as errors can be extremely costly.”
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