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Josh Dufek in his number 28 AIX Racing car at Imola

Josh Dufek was back on track this weekend as the FIA Formula 3 season returned from it’s mid-season break to tackle the infamous Imola Circuit in Italy. Having enjoyed a podium at the track in Italian F4, Josh was no stranger to the tricolor kerbed track and managed to use his experience to his advantage to have his best result in the championship so far. 

Sitting at 4.909km long, the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari is a narrow ‘old school’ track known for it’s tricky and technical nature. Avoiding the gravel traps was the true challenge for the pack as they up until this point of the season had only raced at tracks with tarmac runoffs, whilst tyre management was key due to it’s downhill sections and potentially high temperatures. 

A tricky start

The weekend got off to a difficult start for the 19-year-old as he and the AIX Racing team were plagued by mechanical issues in free practice. Before a qualifying session interrupted by red flag periods and few small mistakes from the rookie racer on his speed runs meant that he was unable to hook a true representative lap together. 

“An issue with the brakes meant I didn’t get a proper lap in free practice, but the team worked to resolve that before we headed out for qualifying. Unfortunately the balance and set up was not ideal for our qualifying run and I made a few mistakes that pushed me to the back of the field. But I know we have the pace to push in the race”

Making a strong comeback

Following the team’s disappointment in qualifying, Josh set out to make the most of every opportunity that came his way on a track that has proven to be difficult for overtaking in the past. Closing his visor and fine-tuning his focus, the Austrian driver was in strong form to make up places once the lights went out for the first time since March. 

As he fired off the grid, Josh had a great start to the sprint race as he immediately began to make up places whilst drama unfolded around him. As the safety car was called before one racing lap was completed, Josh settled into P21 having rapidly gained 7 places in the running order. 

Back at racing speed once the safety car pulled in the AIX Racing driver managed to keep his rivals at bay, but it wasn’t long before another safety car period on Lap 5. Following another chaotic restart, the race was certainly rewarding those drivers who managed to keep out of trouble. Keeping it clean where other drivers ended their day in the gravel, Josh was running as high as P18 as the safety car makes its third appearance in 8 laps. 

Immediately engaged into a battle at the next restart, the young Austrian managed to hold off Dunne until he narrowly drifted too wide onto the grass which allowed his rival to take the place. Despite recovering well his attempt to challenge was cut short due to another safety car period for the stricken car of Browning. 

With only 3 laps left to run the opportunities to make up ground were rapidly running out due to the stop-start nature of the race. Crossing the line following a final virtual safety car period, Josh managed to seal a strong P16 result, earning much deserved praise for rising 12 places throughout a frenetic rollercoaster of a race.

Speaking of his performance in the sprint race, Josh was buoyed by his comeback effort:

“It feels good to have made moves at the start. Overall we made some great improvements in terms of the set up and we’re moving forward towards where we want to be.”

Positive momentum continues

Starting fresh on Sunday morning, Josh readied himself for another battle under the early Italian sun. With track conditions hotting up, it was set to be a tricky challenge for the young pack of drivers. Storming off the grid in a repeat of his sprint race form, Josh managed to make up ground on his rivals jumping from P28 to P24 at the start. 

Utilising his experience gained from tyre struggles in the opening two rounds of the championship, Josh showcased supreme control to ensure his tyres were in the optimum condition by the end of the race to be able to bring the fight to Wurz and Wisnicki ahead. Further improving his pace to cross the line in P22 and finishing as the top placed AIX Racing car in the field. 

“We didn’t know what to expect going into the race so we approached it more like a test session. But I was able to make use of good pace at the beginning, then I just looked after my tyres and it meant I was able to fight at the end. 
Overall, as a team we’re making good progress and I feel stronger coming out of this weekend. We have a quick turnaround before Monaco and Barcelona and there are some key set-up changes that we can make, so we’ll see how much more we can achieve with what we’ve learned this weekend.”

Josh Dufek will be back on track when Formula 3 heads straight to the iconic streets of Monte Carlo for Round 4 in just a few days time.


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