Regarded as the purest form of racing with all drivers competing in identical fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the unique one-make series consists of 12 races between November and March.
Local favourites Al Nabooda Racing Team were crowned champions of Season 7 which finished here in the Middle East in March. The Dubai outfit was spearheaded by the dynamic 21-year and future prospect Jeffrey Schmidt, who set the racing scene alight with untouchable performances and was crowned champion in his debut season.
We spoke to Swiss superstar Jeffery Schmidt as he is currently competing in the Porsche Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup in Europe. We wanted to know how the GT3 Cup Challenge here in the Middle East has prepared him for racing in Europe and a look into what has made him the driver he is today.
Q: How did you eventually find yourself racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge? How did it start for you?
A: The way I got into racing was through my father, he was a professional motocross driver, but he got injured at a young age of 24 and had to stop racing. My father introduced me to Go-Karting at the age of 6 and once I got into one I never wanted to get out, so that was the start of racing for me.
I started off as a training driver in Season 6 of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and thoroughly enjoyed my time on the tracks across the Middle East and the professional nature that the championship brings. The following season I was asked to come back and compete for the Al Nabooda Racing Team from Dubai, I knew the tracks already and was really excited to compete against some of the Arab drivers from the Middle East as they are very quick. I had a great team behind me and managed to win the championship in my first season, it was a great achievement for me.
Q: How has the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East prepared you for racing in Europe and how was it helped with your driving career?
A: The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has definitely helped me prepare for driving in Europe. The car is exactly the same car as we use in the Porsche Supercup which helps a lot as I have had lots of time over the winter to get used to the car. A lot of drivers from Europe do not get to compete at all over the winter so to be able to come out to the Middle East and test yourself over a period of 12 races is a huge benefit when preparing to race in the summer.
Q: Why do you think the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge is a good platform for young drivers in the Middle East to help boost their driving careers?
A: The competition is definitely the most competitive and professional series in the Middle East, The Porsche brand is probably the biggest and most successful motorsport brand ever so to be able to compete under such a prestigious name and in these amazing cars is great for anyone’s racing career. It is a great transition to be able to drive these cars in a championship in the Middle East, then fly to Europe and compete in the exact same car but against different opposition, so in that sense it is a great platform for young drivers to get the experience they need before competing in Europe.
Q: How is racing in Europe different to racing here in the Middle East?
A: Well, the heart of racing is in Europe, this is where the best drivers compete so the level is naturally going to be a lot higher. The history of motorsport in Europe also goes back a lot further than the Middle East so there are a lot more fans of the sport coming to the races and wanting to be involved in the race days. The racing culture in the Middle East is growing and the enthusiasm for the sport is getting more intense, more and more drivers from Europe are hoping for the opportunity to come and compete in the Middle East over the winter and this will be great for the sport here.
Q: What are your plans next?
A: There is a lot of racing coming up over the next few months with the Porsche Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup. In the next 5 weeks we have 5 race weekends, Austria is first and then we travel to Silverstone in the UK and keep travelling from there. I have just finished my university exams so I can really focus on my racing now over the coming months which is great.
Racing in the one make series with Porsche has been amazing so far and I am hoping to progress into a works driver, that is the main goal for me moving forward.
Q: How would you describe your most memorable finish?
A: 2015 in Austria was my first Supercup race. I started the race in P6 and was up against some really tough competition, I drove really well and managed to finish the race in P2. For me this was one of my most successful races, the second place trophy was awarded to me by Mark Webber and that will always be a race that I will remember.
Q: What advice would you give to a kid who wants to race professionally?
A: The earlier you can start the better. You can start go-karting lessons from the age of 5 so I would advise getting any sort of driving experience as early as possible. Early competition is also very good, it is all well and good driving on an empty track but driving with a full grid with other drivers blocking your driving lines is when you can really test yourself.