Josh Dufek completed his three-round cameo in the 2022 Formula Regional Asian Championship with a return to the point-scoring positions at Dubai Autodrome.
The tri-nationality Swiss resident produced his best qualifying performance of the winter season so far and, when that was dented by a penalty, fought hard to regain track position and break back into the points as the championship organisers switched things up with a different variation of the Dubai circuit layout.
Josh, 17, had only made his first visit to the desert venue for round two a week previously but, along with the remainder of the 27-strong field, had to adapt to the longer Grand Prix layout ahead of the latest triple-header event. Putting 48 valuable laps under his belt in pre-event testing provided a solid foundation for the youngster and his Hitech GP team, but he was unable to capitalise on the experience gained as he missed the peak of his tyres in the first qualifying session and set a time that was slower than he had hoped for. Second time around, however, everything clicked for Josh, as he posted a personal best result of sixth fastest after a much better session, setting himself up for a good race to end the round.
From 17th on the grid, points in race one were always going to be a tall order, but Josh attacked the task with early vigour. Moving up four spots on the opening lap hinted at something special but, as tyre wear played a part over the remainder of the race, he found himself mired in a battle just to retain his position, eventually crossing the line an unrepresentative 16th on the road.
With the championship only reversing the positions of the top ten drivers when setting the grid for race two, Josh would start from the outside of row eight, again making him work hard in search of points. As ever, he gave it his best shot, racing hard throughout until contact with another car forced him into retirement on the penultimate lap. The incident would also have a knock-on effect for race three, where a five-place grid penalty undid Josh's splendid qualifying effort and relegated him to 11th as the field lined up for the final start.
Despite dropping another spot with a slower getaway than usual, the youngster again showed his mettle when it mattered most. Refusing to be fazed by his misfortune, he battled his way up to ninth position — passing race two winner Dino Beganovic, amongst others, along the way — before an untimely safety car intervention halted any further progress. When the race restarted, Josh again hoped to make up places but, when his car bogged down for a brief moment, he was left vulnerable to those behind him in the queue, losing one spot before picking up and holding tenth to the chequered flag.
"I noted at round two that Dubai Autodrome had a bit of everything, and that clearly includes very different layout options," Josh commented. "The Grand Prix version might use some of the same sections as the International circuit we raced on last week, but it proved more difficult to overtake on — as well as being tougher on tyres.
"After a mixed set of results in qualifying, race one was always going to be a tough proposition, but I made a good start and was able to pick up places early on. After that, however, the left front tyre grained up enough to hamper the car's performance and I ended up slipping back. Quite a few drivers complained of the same problem, but not everyone was affected, so I don't know if we were unlucky and got a poor set of tyres.
"Race two was very much in the same vein as the opening race the previous day but, again, I was making progress until the collision with [Leonardo] Fornaroli, who had started second. The incident was regrettable not only because it forced me to retire, but also because it prompted a penalty that pushed me down the grid for race three. However, as was the case last week, I definitely saved my best for last and was able to reclaim many of the places I had lost to the penalty. If the safety car hadn't come out, I think ninth would have been safe, but, with the car struggling to get away at the restart, I dropped a spot and had to settle for tenth.
"Again, however, I put a lot of laps on the car this weekend, which can only help going forward. Racing in the Formula Regional Asian Championship has provided me with a good grounding in F3, but now I have to focus on what comes next, and hope to have an announcement regarding my summer programme very shortly."