Joshua Dufek made an encouraging start to life in the Formula 3 category, leaving the opening round of the 2022 Formula Regional Asian Championship with two top ten finishes and joint second place in the series' Rookie Cup standings.
The 17-year-old Swiss native is making the step up from Formula 4 for the 2022 season, running with the British Hitech GP team in three of the five scheduled rounds of the Asian regional series as a means of gaining experience before joining one of the European championships in the summer.
After using the pre-event test and official practice to play himself into the Yas Marina circuit, Josh posted times good enough for 18th and 15th on the grid for races one and three of the triple-header, with the starting line-up for race two to be decided by reversing the top ten finishers from the opening event.
"In a field featuring this many established F3 names, the qualifying results were respectable enough, if maybe not quite as high up the order as we had hoped for," a phlegmatic Josh commented. "Only a matter of tenths separated us from the top ten in the second session, however, and I was among some good company in that section of the grid."
Gaining two positions on the opening lap of race one was just the start of a sparkling category debut for Josh, as he displayed the sort of overtaking prowess that made him a winner — and regular podium visitor — during his two ADAC and Italian F4 campaigns last season. Further places in a safety car-afflicted race followed on laps three and four, before a jump of three spots on lap eight took him to the verge of the top ten. Josh wasn't finished there either as he took advantage of an accident ahead of him on track to gain another two positions, before the return of the safety car denied him the opportunity to improve on a merited ninth in the final result.
With the top ten finishers reversed to form the grid for race two the following morning, Josh found himself lining up on the front row for the 30-minute encounter. Holding position as the starting lights went out, the youngster remained in the podium positions to half-distance, before another safety car interruption left him vulnerable to the cars behind, dropping the Hitech car to seventh via a battle with race one winner Sebastian Montoya. A second safety car in the closing stages brought the protagonists together again on the final lap, before Josh claimed an eventful sixth overall.
The third and final race of the weekend returned Josh to mid-grid based on his qualifying performance, but that proved no deterrent to immediate progress as, after a start-line accident, lengthy red flag period and safety car restart, he was quickly up into 13th spot. With the field closely matched, the order was always likely to shuffle, but Josh remained in the hunt for another top ten finish to the end, eventually taking the chequered flag in 12th position before a time penalty for contact dropped him back to 16th.
“Our objective was simply to try and get into the top ten each time we hit the track,” Josh noted. “So, on that basis, I think we can be pleased with what we achieved this weekend. To be P2 in the Rookie Cup is just mega – and maybe beyond what I could have expected this early in the season.
"I really enjoyed coming through the field from 18th to ninth in race one, and racing at the front of the field in race two was great fun too. To come so close to achieving our goal in race three as well might have been frustrating, but offers great encouragement for future rounds.”
Josh will be back in action this coming weekend (28-30 January), as the Formula Regional Asian Championship moves onto Dubai Autodrome for round two.