Rising single-seater star Josh Dufek continued his ascent of the Italian F4 standings at the weekend, claiming his first podium of the season at Vallelunga .
Buoyed by his pace in recent F4 outings at Misano and the Red Bull Ring, the Van Amersfoort Racing driver quickly made himself at home at the Autodromo Piero Taruffi, establishing the #13 machine as a fixture in the top five throughout pre-event testing and free practice. With the top 21 drivers separated by mere fractions of a second, however, qualifying would still present a stern test of 16-year-old Josh’s mettle.
The field was even closer in the opening timed session, with 23 drivers covered by less than a second and, despite being a matter of tenths off pole position, Josh would only occupy ninth spot on the timesheets, and the grid for Sunday’s opening race. Ironically, the Swiss resident’s second fastest time would have put him fourth overall had they been taken into account, but he proved that that had been no fluke by vaulting to the same position in the afternoon’s other session, locking down a position on row two for the middle race in Sunday’s hectic triple-header.
The early start to the raceday schedule at least meant lower temperatures for teams and drivers as the field left the grid shortly after 9am, and Josh showed his own cool as he claimed three positions in the space of the opening lap. He remained in sixth spot for the next 13 tours, before picking off VAR team-mate Han Cenyu and easing out a gap to the Chinese driver to take the chequered flag in fifth place.
Temperatures had climbed again ahead of race two, with thermometers touching 35°C, and things quickly became heated on the track too, with the safety car required to control the field at the end of lap one. By then, Josh was already into the podium positions, having got the best of team-mate and championship leader Ollie Bearman off the line, and, even when their positions were reversed, quickly returned to the top three as polesitter Sebastian Montoya fell by the wayside. Any hope of challenging for second place, however, was thwarted by the return of the safety car, which ensured the order remained the same to the end.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” a nevertheless elated Josh exclaimed after the race. “Two races down and we’re on the podium at last! It’s been a great weekend so far, and I’m so grateful to the entire VAR crew, who have put in an amazing effort, not just this weekend, but all season long — they deserve this result even more than I do!”
Another podium finish was clearly on Josh’s mind at the start of the third and final race of the weekend, with the #13 entry lining up on the inside of row three based on second-fastest times from both qualifying sessions. His intent was clear too, but a challenge for third place on the opening lap only resulted in the VAR car being pushed wide and shuffled back down the order as the field filed through. When the race was halted by a red flag after ten of the scheduled 30 minutes, Josh had climbed three spots to sit 15th ahead of the restart, and he then showed what might have been possible by carving his way through the pack to take the flag eighth on the road, and tenth overall when aggregated times were taken into account.
“Although the weekend finished on a slightly frustrating note, what went before highlighted where we are now,” Josh concluded after moving to seventh place in the championship standings. “Challenging for the podium should be the norm from now on, but I really want to win for my crew. We have the pace to run at the front and I’m sure our time will come.”
Josh will be back on track in two weeks’ time, contesting round two of Germany’s ADAC F4 series at Zandvoort, in Holland, over the weekend of 9-11 July.