A splendid and a successful weekend came to a conclusion at the famed Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for Oman’s Al Faisal al Zubair and his Spanish teammate, Andy Soucek, as they claimed another podium finish to retain their overall series lead after the second round of the 2021 International GT Open Championship on Sunday.
The maiden race win on Saturday gave them the series lead for first time, and on Sunday, they followed it up with a third place to sum up a scintillating show as the Lechner Racing duo head to the third round (July 9-11) at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, Hungary, high on confidence.
There have been not many occasions in Oman’s motorsports history when an Omani racer, competing in one of the top European endurance series, is leading the championship. Al Faisal’s impressive display in his maiden endurance series has underlined his reputation as one of the best talents in the region.
The 23 year old, the only Omani to have won successive Porsche Middle East Challenge Series titles, was delighted at the turn of events in Spa where the series had a grid of 20 cars.
A third-place finish in the fourth race of the series gave the Lechner Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 R duo a slim one-point overall lead (43 points) over Sunday’s race winners, Michele Beretta and Frederik Schandorff, of Vincenzo Sospiri Racing (VSR) in their Lamborghini. Another VSR Lamborghini team of Yuki Nemoto and Baptiste Moulin, who came second to complete a one-two VSR finish, are overall third with 36 points.
Al Faisal and Soucek, garnered a total of 25 (15 and ten) points at Spa, having earlier pocketed 18 points from the first round at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France.
Of the four races, the pair has a victory, two third-place finishes and a fourth spot.
With the FIA handicap system penalising a winning team with ten seconds for the pit stop in a subsequent race, finishing third overall on Sunday was all the more impressive for the Lechner Racing team. Beretta and Schandorff won the second race by 14.067s from their teammates with Soucek and Al Faisal 16.872s adrift at the chequered flag, despite the handicap.
“This was an amazing race weekend, coming out with a win, a third-place and leading the championship,” said Al Faisal. “We definitely could not have asked for more. We were so happy to get our first victory in the GT Open, for myself, Andy [Soucek] and Lechner Racing. It was a big step.”
On Sunday, the one-hour second race was also held in warm and sunny conditions and Al Faisal lined up in sixth place on the grid behind Adam Carroll’s Audi R8, Loris Spinelli (Mercedes AMG), Robbie Foley (Aston Martin), Beretta (Lamborghini) and Nemoto (Lamborghini).
Al Faisal slipped behind Jens Reno Moller’s Honda NSX on the opening lap but regained his sixth position during the first 13 minutes of the race, as Carroll continued to lead from Spinelli and Foley.
He then held fifth as the race reached its mid point and he pitted after 11 laps for Soucek to take over for the final stint having slipped to seventh. Once the front-runners had all pitted and switched drivers, Schandorff held the lead from Moulin and Michael Dinan with Soucek in sixth place heading into the final 23 minutes.
Soucek began to close in on his rivals and moved up to third place in the final quarter of the race and retained his position to the finish to cap an excellent weekend for the Lechner Racing Porsche.
“Coming in with the handicap in the pit stop, which gave us an extra ten seconds in the race, I think the job was really amazing,” added Al Faisal.
“The car felt good in the first stint. I lost a position to the Honda and then had a good move around and started catching the Lamborghini.
“We switched to Andy and he put on some better tyres and had a good stint to go up to third place. We are very happy with it. It seems like the whole team is working well together.”
Earlier, Al Faisal replaced Soucek for qualifying duties for Sunday’s slightly shorter second race. Saturday’s victory had given the Lechner Racing duo a six-point series lead over the Schandorff/Beretta Lamborghini and an eight-point advantage over the McLaren of Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy.
The Omani qualified the Lechner Porsche in sixth with a best lap of 2min 18.240s, with pole position falling to the Audi R8 of the British duo of Shaun Balfe and Adam Carroll with a tour of 2min 16.598sec.
2021 International GT Open
Overall standings after round two:
1 Andy Soucek (Spain)/Al Faisal al Zubair (Oman) 43 points
2 Frederick Schandorff (Switzerland)/Michele Beretta (Italy) 42 pts
3 Baptiste Moulin (Belgium)/Yuki Nemoto (Japan) 36 pts
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