Joshua Dufek returned to the top step of an international race podium to cap a frenetic weekend at Monza with his first win in the EuroFormula Open series.
In an event where dodging deep water and keeping your head while all around were losing theirs, the Swiss youngster not only claimed race three victory, but also took a brace of second-place finishes in the weekend's earlier encounters to substantially boost his points total as well as hint at a profitable end-of-season run with two rounds remaining on the EuroFormula Open schedule.
Having had to look up at the winner at the end of races one and two, Josh was determined to go one better in Sunday afternoon's finale, vaulting immediately from fifth on the grid to exit the opening chicane in third place, before gaining another position before the end of the lap to sit behind Team Motorpark team-mate — and Peak Performance Management stable-mate — Bryce Aron. Although the pack remained in close company, Josh was able to stay with Aron for the first three laps, before launching a surprise move for the lead into the Della Roggia chicane.
His advantage lasted all of two laps, however, before both Charlie Wurz and championship leader Noel Leon demoted the #69 machine, with the constant shape-shifting of the closely-matched field then shuffling Josh back to fourth within the space of another tour. Briefly running outside of the top three, however, ultimately proved a benefit to the 18-year-old as contact in the leading group sent two cars into the barriers, and brought out the safety car with Josh once again in second place, now behind Leon.
The safety car remained on track for four laps and, even when it retreated to pit-lane, the section of track between turns four and six were kept under yellow flags, ensuring no overtaking at those corners for the remainder of the race. Undeterred, Josh pulled off another stellar pass to retake the lead on lap 13, just getting the move completed before the restricted zone, before having to fend off Leon for the remaining three tours, as the Mexican looked to take advantage of Monza's historic slipstreaming characteristics. Having pulled a small gap over the rest of the field, the two-car battle for victory went right down to the wire, with Leon looking to make a move out of the long final corner only to be rebuffed by a determined Josh — who claimed the win by just 0.046secs (with the rest of the top five also coming home within a second of the Motorpark driver!).
"It was such an intense race," Josh commented. "So much happened, with the safety car restart, the collision between the other two drivers, all the battles that went on… We weren't short of action, that's for sure, but I'm just glad that we could come out on top and capitalise on everything that went on."
Victory capped a fine weekend for Josh and his CryptoTower Racing team, with the Swiss ace not only having set the pace in a wet second practice session on Friday, but then going on to annex the second-fastest time in qualifying. With race one on Saturday afternoon proving to be a wash-out, with only two proper racing laps possible in torrential rain, Josh was forced to wait until Sunday morning to show that his single-lap pace would also translate into rapid race performance.
Despite the reverse order grid leaving him to start on row three of the grid, he also took a stint at the front of the field in race two, taking advantage of a squabble between the two leading drivers to lead for six laps mid-race. In thankfully dry conditions, the 16 laps provided plenty of opportunity for overtaking but Josh remained in charge until front wing damage sustained while defending his position hobbled him on the run to the flag and allowed Wurz to sneak by.
Securing the biggest haul of points across the weekend has propelled Josh into seventh in the overall standings, with another two positions comfortably within his reach at the penultimate round, at Mugello — the scene of Italian F4 success — in a week's time.
"I think, ideally, I should have won the race this morning, and the one yesterday too," he reflected. "There were a few mistakes on my side that cost us those wins, but I'm really happy with how the weekend has gone otherwise, and pleased with the progress we continue to make with this new car."
Josh will return to EuroFormula Open action for round seven, at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello this weekend (29 September – 1 October).