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JOSH BATTLES AGAINST BAD LUCK IN FRONT OF HOME CROWDS IN AUSTRIA


Josh Dufek took to the track on home soil this weekend, as the Austrian driver battled through misfortune at the Red Bull Ring. Despite a difficult outing in the second event of a triple-header for the FIA Formula 3 championship, Josh reveled in the opportunity to represent the Austrian flag in front of home crowds.


Situated high in the Styrian hills, the 4.318km ribbon of tarmac which features a series of fast corners and undulation changes, is one of the shortest tracks on the calendar. With a picturesque back drop, the Austrian track poses itself as a high-speed, technical challenge. 


As Free Practice got underway, Josh was straight out on track on Friday morning eager to make the most of his track time. Posting the strongest lap of AIX team in the opening stages of the session, the 19-year-old was P5 after the first lap before further improving to shoot to top of the timings as the second round of fast laps came in. Ending the session in P21 after a yellow flag cut the session short, Josh felt well prepared to hit the track for qualifying later that day. 


Strong start for the Austrian

Qualifying on Friday afternoon was a typically frantic affair for the 30-strong field as they traded places with every loop they made of the short circuit. Having gained 11 places in each race respectively at the previous event in Barcelona, Josh knew improvements to their qualifying position would open up more opportunities for his progression in the race. 


Making the switch to a fresh set of soft compound tyres Josh made his way back out onto circuit for the final flying laps of the session. With the margins so tight and jostling for position, Josh scored a strong mid-pack starting position of P20 having made improvements in his final lap.

“Overall the day was a step up from what it has been. After my initial lap on the first set of tyres, I felt the lap was good but my time wasn’t as representative. Thankfully we gained a few more positions on my final lap which was surprising as I felt I could’ve made even more improvements so we left some potential on the table which is frustrating. Although we’re not strong enough pace wise to be fighting in the top ten, we have continued to improve from where we were earlier in the season.”

Looking ahead to his opportunities for making up ground in the races Josh commented:

“This track is better chances for overtaking, I am confident we can gain some good positions. I’m looking forward to putting on a show in front of my home crowd.”

Arduous Climb

Firing off the line with superb reaction times, Josh did all he could to give himself the best chance of making up ground as the pack roared up the steep incline to the tight right-hander at Turn 1 named after his fellow countryman, the late Niki Lauda. Having made up 3 positions, unfortunately his progress was cut short as he found himself sandwiched between his rivals with nowhere to go. Feeling a blind hit from behind, the skilled racer managed to keep control of his AIX car to prevent him being sent into a spin. Despite his best efforts to carry on, it was clear that he had suffered a puncture and he was forced to pull into the pits for a fresh set of tyres. 


Setting a series of purple sectors as the track went green after a safety called was withdrawn for incidents else where in the field, the Austrian didn’t let misfortune get the better of him as he continued to battle wheel-to-wheel throughout the remainder of the 21 lap race. Trading places throughout the resolute young racer continued on until a dramatic accident for Montoya in the closing stages of the race brought out the safety car. Despite losing a place taking action to avoid the scattering of debris strewn across the racing line, Josh recovered to cross the line in P25. 

“After being hit from behind I soon realized I had a puncture, but also once I was back on track it was clear we had damage and the car was pulling to the right. So from there I had to manage the issue and wasn’t able to make many positions back. With the Feature Race being longer, if we manage our race well and avoid incident we should be able to make some good progress.”

Situated high in the Styrian hills, the 4.318km ribbon of tarmac which features a series of fast corners and undulation changes, is one of the shortest tracks on the calendar. With a picturesque back drop, the Austrian track poses itself as a high-speed, technical challenge. 


As Free Practice got underway, Josh was straight out on track on Friday morning eager to make the most of his track time. Posting the strongest lap of AIX team in the opening stages of the session, the 19-year-old was P5 after the first lap before further improving to shoot to top of the timings as the second round of fast laps came in. Ending the session in P21 after a yellow flag cut the session short, Josh felt well prepared to hit the track for qualifying later that day. 


Another dose of bad luck

With renewed determination Josh had confidence he could bring the fight to his rivals if he managed the tyre wear and avoided being caught up in incidents. 

Unfortunately losing places at the start Josh found himself swarmed as drivers pinched together in a four-wide battle, he wisely bailed and conceded positions but was forced to bump over the sausage kerb at Turn 1 in the process. Recovering places as racing truly got underway, with the pack tightly packed together in a long train, he began to make up more ground under DRS and piled pressure on Fornaroli. Before trading places on Sztuka as they swept through the hills. 


His efforts were all to be in vain as he entered Turn 4, he was blindsided by a poorly judged pass on the inside from Voisin which sent Josh skating across the gravel. The stewards deemed Voisin wholly responsible for the collision and handed out a 10 second penalty and 2 penalty points for the incident. Meanwhile Josh was forced to retire in the pits, bringing a heartbreakingly early end to his home race weekend. 

“I got a decent initial launch but I was boxed in and lost positions. Before long I had a water pressure alarm on my steering wheel, so I was in communication with my engineer to manage the issue. Then as I entered Turn 4, I felt a massive hit from the side and all of a sudden I was in the gravel. It was really unfortunate but it was possible that we would’ve been forced to retire with a mechanical issue regardless.”

Reflecting on the weekend as a whole, Josh thanked the Austrian crowds and looked ahead to the next time out. 

“It felt special to be racing in Austria and although the luck didn’t quite go out way, I’m thankful for the experience and the reception from the home crowd. As a team we’ll work together to come back stronger in Silverstone.”

Josh Dufek will be back on track in just a few short days when racing continues at Silverstone on 5-7th July.

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