It was a case of déjà vu following Round 3 of the Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East, with Luxembourg’s Dylan Pereira returning to the series to claim podium finishes in all three races at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. Pereira, racing this weekend only in the Season 11 championship, is remembered for his ability to negotiate the challenging Yas Marina Circuit with ease and precision, having set the fastest lap ever recorded in a Porsche GT3 Cup car at track in Season 9.
Following his formidable display in Round 3, Pereira said: “It was a really great weekend overall. I love this circuit because it’s always really fast her and the conditions are usually very good. Race 1 was a good test for me and I was happy with the P1 finish. I felt unlucky in the second race where I had a penalty for a jump start which meant I narrowly missed out on another P1 finish to Leon. I managed the last race well; starting from a P5 position is never easy. I pushed really hard throughout and was happy to eventually secure second place”.
Qualifying for Race 1 took place on Friday morning, with Pereira securing the fastest time with a lap of 2:10.20 to start on pole position ahead of championship leader Leon Koehler in second. France’s J.B. Simmenauer started in third with Julien Hanses in fourth. Newcomer David Beckmann impressed in his first qualifying session to start the race in fifth.
Pereira showed no sign of conceding his pole position with a scorching start that left current championship leader Leon Koehler stunned. The Luxembourg-born driver continued his quick pace throughout the rest of the race, gradually increasing his lead with every lap. By the end of the race, Pereira had built an impenetrable lead, crossing the chequered flag nearly four seconds ahead of Koehler and in doing so ensuring victory on his return.
Race 1 finished with Pereira on pole and Koehler in second. Simmenauer was third, Hanses in fourth and Julien Beckmann fifth.
Race 2 got underway at midday on Saturday afternoon with a near identical starting grid as Race 1. Starting on pole position again was Dylan Pereira after clocking a qualifying time of 2:10:88 with Leon Koehler completing the front row with a qualifying time of 2:11.03. J.B. Simmenauer started in third and David Beckmann if fourth.
After another dominating performance, Pereira impressed once again, leading from start to finish to take the chequered flag four seconds ahead of Koehler in second. A perfect race was not to be, however, with officials deeming Pereira guilty of a jump start and sanctioning a five second penalty on the driver. The time penalty saw Pereira narrowly miss out on a P1 finish, with Koehler subsequently promoted to the top of the podium.
In a race devoid of any real action, it was Season 11 newcomer Julian Hanses who once again impressed, narrowly missing out on a podium finish. Starting in P5, Hanses showed his racing pedigree on lap two with a fine piece of driving to manoeuvre past David Beckmann going into turn three where he would remain for the duration of the race.
The race finished with Koehler first, Pereira in second and Simmenauer in third. Outside of the podium places it was Julian Hanses in fourth, David Beckmann fifth and Saul Hack in sixth.
The line-up for Race 3 was once again decided by a reverse grid, with the starting places set in reverse order of the top six finishers of Race 2. This saw Saul Hack start in pole position, with Beckmann in second and Hanses in third. Simmenauer was fourth, Pereira fifth while winner of Race 2, Leon Koehler, was in sixth.
The refreshed format made for another exhilarating race, with the top six pushing for podium places from the first lap to the last. Saul Hack got off to a flying start, maintaining his P1 position for much of the race despite pressure from Beckmann and Simmenauer. Pereira, starting in fifth, did well to work his way into contention with some sublime overtakes on laps 7 and 10.
The story of the race came in the second to last lap, where a rampant Beckmann seized on a rare error from Hack going into turn seven, where he was able to get the inside line and push the South African off course and accelerate into first position. The manoeuvre opened up the race for the rest of the field, with Pereira and Simmenauer also taking advantage of Hack’s error to leave the South African in their rear-view mirror.
The race finished with Beckmann first, Pereira in second and Simmenauer in third. Leon Koehler finished fourth, Hanses fifth and Wagner in sixth.
At the end of another thrilling round which sees 9 of the 14-race season complete, Leon Koehler (213pts) has a lead of 43 points in the overall standings ahead of Julian Hanses in second (170pts) and J.B. Simmenauer (168pts) in third. Saul Hack is in fourth (162pts), with Richard Wagner in fifth (146pts) and Jesse Van Kuijk in sixth (120pts).
Season 11 concludes in the coming months with back-to-back rounds at the Bahrain International Circuit. Round 4 takes place across two days from February 21st, with Round 5 returning a month later for the last two races of the season, with the final race acting as the official support race to the 2020 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – the only regional racing series to do so.
The Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East is now in its historic eleventh season, making it the first and longest regional championship backed by a manufacturer in the Middle East. It gives drivers access to the latest Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, the same model used for international motorsport editions, such as the Porsche Carrera Cup and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.