Porsche GT3 Cup champion Abdulaziz hopes to inspire young Saudis
Saudi Arabia‘s latest Middle East champion driver believes a new generation of young hopefuls from the Kingdom are waiting to follow his path to success. Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal won the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East earlier this year and his achievement has caught the imagination of young Saudis.
“There’s been a big response here,“ he said. “A lot of people recognise me now because of the Porsche GT3 Cup series. There‘s a lot of interest, especially from the media. I’m constantly getting calls for interviews, and I hope what I’ve done can inspire more young Saudi drivers.”
Hundreds of young Saudis saw Prince Abdulaziz win four of the six rounds held at Reem International Circuit outside Riyadh on his way to the new one-make Porsche title, with five other race wins in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
These are exciting times for motor sport in Saudi, which staged a round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship for the first time this year and has plans to build several more race circuits.
Prince Abdulazi says: “From what I’ve seen at Reem there are a lot of young guys coming into the sport, starting in karting which is the right entry level. The Porsche GT3 Cup series is much more advanced, but in the near future we’re going to find more local drivers taking an interest in it when they reach that level.”
Launched on behalf of Porsche by former racing star Walter Lechner, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, sponsored by Michelin and Mobil 1, was an immediate success, and the second edition will start alongside November’s Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Prince Abdulaziz says the series shows the way forward for regional motor sport. “Last year very few of the cars carried sponsors’ branding, while in Europe all the drivers are sponsored and their cars are branded,“ he said. “That should be the same here. It’s a professional sport, and for us to try and compete with the rest of the world it has to be run like a business.
“The mechanics who look after our cars are all from Europe and have unique skills and years of experience. But there’s no reason why young people from Saudi or other Gulf countries couldn’t start a career in motor sport and earn a good living from it.”
Looking ahead to the start of the new season in November, Prince Abdulaziz could come under presssure from Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Rashid Al Khalifa, young Saudi Fahad Algosaibi, Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi, and his own team-mate, Prince Khalid Al Faisal.
But he says: “I’m defending the title and I want to win it again. It’s going to be much tougher, but hopefully I’ll do it. To prepare for the new season I’m doing a lot of physical and mental training. It really wasn’t easy last season. Some races were easier than others. But in most of them I was under pressure. Because we’ve got exactly equal cars it’s very difficult to pull away, and you need to work hard to maintain your focus throughout the race.”