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It takes two to turbo

Debutant Karim Al Azhari from the UAE and Omani national Ahmad Al Harthy gear up for Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East

By David Light

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Published: Fri 27 Jan 2012, 8:36 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:59 PM

Saudi Arabia’s demanding Reem International Circuit will provide arguably the most difficult test of the season in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East next month, and two of the visiting drivers can’t wait for the experience.

Designed to identify top Arab and local-based talent in the Middle East and become a platform for entry into the world of international GT and sports car racing, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East is the regional version of the GT3 Cup one-make series already running with huge success in Brazil, New Zealand and the US. The race series is organised and managed by Austrian-based Lechner Racing on behalf of Porsche Middle East & Africa.

Oman’s Ahmad Al Harthy and the UAE’s Karim Al Azhari will have different targets when the Porsche one-make series returns to the Kingdom for Rounds seven and eight on February 15-16, although both are relishing the battle against Saudi’s top drivers on their home turf.

Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal leads the 12-round championship at the halfway point from fellow-Saudi Bandar Alesayi, and while Azhari has modest ambitions at present as he looks forward to his debut in the series, fourth-placed Al Harthy is determined not to let the top two monopolise the title race.

The Omani was quickly up to speed in his first GT3 Cup season, winning Round 4 in Abu Dhabi, and he has not allowed a spin-off followed by a crash in the next two rounds in the UAE capital to break his self-belief.

“I just put that down to racing, and forgot about it straight away,” said Al Harthy. “There was nothing that I could do about it, and now I’m just looking forward to going back to Reem where I’ve raced once before. It’s a very challenging circuit and in some ways it suits my driving style because it’s got some very technical, fast flowing corners. It’s one of the hardest tracks to race at for sure, but I’m in a strong frame of mind and looking forward to going back there,” he continued.

“There’s limited time for testing at the circuit and, of course, the Saudi drivers have the advantage of having had a lot of track time there. But I’ve had one of the biggest race wins of my career this season and I’m developing as a driver. The team is working on many areas to improve my driving and it’s a very positive experience,” he finished.

Al Azhari has the toughest test as he will be experiencing the Reem circuit for the first time as he enters the series with Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing. “For me, it’s an exciting additional challenge to be tackling circuits where I haven’t raced before,” he said.

“The Porsche GT3 Cup series is going to be a learning curve for me. It’s exciting to be finally doing this. It’s proven to be the most exciting championship in the Middle East. Considering they started from scratch less than three years ago, they’ve done a fabulous job.”

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