Joshua Dufek got his EuroFormula Open campaign off to a solid start on the familiar tarmac of the Red Bull Ring, netting a couple of podium finishes on his debut appearance with Team Motopark/CryptoTower Racing.
Joining the F3-level series as it resumed after a mid-season break, Josh showed little hesitancy as he immediately posted the second-fastest time across three free practice sessions, headed only by Motopark team-mate — and 2023 champion-elect — Noel Leon. The Swiss driver then closed the gap to his Mexican rival in a competitive qualifying session on Saturday morning, claiming the outside of row one for the first of three races across the weekend, with reversed grids coming into effect after that.
Race one followed later on Saturday, and was characterised by a slightly chaotic start, where several drivers botched their getaway and mixed up the early order, with Josh dropping to fourth in the melee and having to fend off Francesco Simonazzi before gapping the Italian and passing Paolo Brajnik for third before the end of the opening lap.
Although he then gave chase to team-mate Cian Shields, the Scot remained just far enough ahead to deny Josh another place and the debutant had to be content with the final step of the podium on his first outing in Motopark's iconic red-and-black Dallara 320.
With his result locking in fourth on the grid for race two on Sunday morning, Josh quickly became the centre of attention as he fiercely resisted the attentions of Leon, already up from sixth and determined to hunt down another race win to put one hand on the championship trophy. No matter the Mexican's intentions, however, Josh defended in exemplary fashion, positioning his #69 machine to thwart Leon at almost every turn through the first seven laps. Having kept the points leader at bay for longer than almost anybody had managed all season, Josh's resistance was eventually breached, leaving him to keep Shields at a respectable distance for the remainder of the 20-lap race whilst simultaneously closing on the top four. That pursuit then became for another podium finish after Simonazzi spun long-time leader Bryce Aron, but ultimately cemented fourth place for the charging Swiss driver.
With the grid for the third and final race of the round based on the reversal of the top six from qualifying, Josh would line up fifth on the grid, sharing row three with Leon. A solid start sees the #69 hold position though the early laps, before the battle with fellow debutant Charlie Wurz prompted a ride up the order, culminating in a pass on Aron that nets another podium finish and a solid haul of points that immediately propels the 18-year-old into the top ten in points.
"It was a decent weekend considering we came into the championship new to most things and had to learn all the techniques of the much lighter and higher downforce car," Josh reflected. "The starts were actually the most challenging aspect of the weekend I would say, as it was kind of a make or break for your race. The different clutch feel wasn’t the easiest to get used to, but I’m happy with my improvements and we showed our speed and potential for the upcoming races as well. I’m looking forward to racing again at Monza this week and, with everything I learned in my first round, I’m sure that we can do even better."
Josh will return to EuroFormula Open for round six at the Autodromo Internazionale Monza — the scene of his recent FIA F3 debut in support of the Italian Grand Prix — over the weekend of 23-24 September.