Josh Dufek overcame a tough start to round two of the 2021 Italian F4 Championship at Misano-Adriatico over the weekend, coming away with two point-scoring finishes, including a season-best sixth place.
The Van Amersfoort Racing driver looked set for a strong weekend after posting top three times in the collective test day that preceded the race event and then flying to the top of the timesheets in the opening free practice session, only to have technical issues undermine his potential in both qualifying and race one. With handling issues plaguing the #13 Tatuus in two closely-fought timed sessions, Josh slipped back to 13th and 20th in the order, and faced a battle across the ensuing three races if he was to add to the points he had already accrued in the opening round at Paul Ricard.
Any reward for a charge through the field in Saturday’s opening race was stymied by further problems, as a malfunctioning spark plug sidelined the 16-year-old with two laps to go after he had made up ten places to reach ninth on the leaderboard. Josh’s individual sector times, however, boded well for the rest of the weekend, showing that the VAR driver was capable of lapping on a par with those at the front of the field, and that fact was underlined by another dynamic drive from even further back on the grid in race two.
From the outside of row ten, Josh had already made up three positions by the end of the first lap of the 4.2km circuit and added another three by the next time the orange-and-black Van Amersfoort machine flashed cross the start-finish line. While progress slowed slightly after that, as he battled through the closely-matched midfield pack, Josh was up to 13th by half-distance, and continued to pick off rivals all the way to the chequered flag, eventually coming home a highly creditable ninth overall, just 12 seconds behind the winner and in possession of the fourth-fastest lap of the race.
Once again, his sector times matched the best in the field, including going fastest of all through the second part of the 16-turn Misano layout, giving Josh added confidence going into the overnight break before race three of the triple-header. Sunday’s finale would present the toughest challenge yet, however, with the #13 car having to come from 21st on the grid, but Josh again proved up for a fight. Making up a massive ten places on the opening lap gave the youngster a perfect platform from which to launch his bid for a top ten result and he continued to build on his flying start, gaining positions on a regular basis to eventually finish sixth overall, with the race’s fastest lap as a fitting exclamation point on his performance.
“What a rollercoaster ride!” Josh said, reflecting on his tumultuous weekend, “From Friday, we knew that things would be interesting, and going fastest in practice was a great start, but then we had a tough opening race after a close qualifying session. Having accepted that disappointment, however, race two was very encouraging, and was then followed by one of the most satisfying races I’ve ever driven as I gained 15 places in just 19 laps to finish sixth with fastest lap.
“The results still aren’t where I want them to be, but the work we’re doing is massive. I can feel that better things are close and we’ll keep on pushing until we taste the champagne!”
Josh’s attention will immediately turn to the belated opening round of the ADAC German F4 Championship at the Red Bull Ring in Austria this coming weekend (11-13 June).