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JOSH DUFEK BEGINS HIS FIA F3 ROOKIE CAMPAIGN IN BAHRAIN

Austrian racing driver Josh Dufek made his full season debut in FIA Formula 3 this weekend, taking to the wheel of the #28 PHM AIX Racing machine for his first time racing as part of the Formula 1 support package. Making this pivotal step up to the official third rung on the ladder to F1, Josh was eager to get racing underway.



Straight off the back of pre-season testing which was disrupted by rain and mechanical gremlins, Josh and the team were slightly behind where they hoped to be heading into the weekend. But undeterred by adversity they had full focus on extracting as much as they could out of the opening round. 


Getting the season started

Located in the middle of the Sahkir desert, the Bahrain International Circuit is a 5.4km-long track which features 15 tough corners stitched together by long straights. With extra challenge provided by the heavy braking zones and an abrasive track surface which are particularly punishing to the tyre degradation.


Out on track for Free Practice on Thursday morning due to the weekend taking an altered schedule, Josh’s progress was halted due to VSC and a red flag interrupting the session. However when track action resumed with six minutes left of run time, he made his way out on track and filed a number of laps in preparation for qualifying. 


As qualifying got underway on Thursday afternoon unfortunately technical issue with the car GPS system meant the PHM AIX Racing driver was forced to spend much of the session in the pits, whilst the team worked tirelessly to resolve the issue in time for him to get out on track. Their hard work paid off as Josh was able to punch in some rapid laps, but with his track time the shortest of anyone in the field and having to reduce the intended run plan from 3 new tyre runs down to just 2 he was only able to manage P26 starting position for the weekend. Despite disappointment in his overall result, a narrow six tenths margin covering him and his teammates validated his strong pace in the PHM AIX Racing machinery.





Fighting forward

Forming part of the 30-strong field, Josh jumped into his green, black and copper coloured charger for the opening race of the season on Friday afternoon. Having made his initial F3 debut in the final race of the 2023 season, Josh was confident he had the skills to make up ground at the start. His confidence came good as he fired off the start with ferocious pace to take 4 positions by the end of the opening lap. 


Avoiding the chaos that unfolded at Turn 1, the Austrian racer demonstrated incredible control and precision to escape unscathed and push on into the race. With the initial race pace looking strong, he engaged into a battle with his rivals until he was unfortunately forced to take a wider line to avoid a collision. Determined to make up lost ground, Josh put his foot down and eyes trained on making his way back up the field as best he could. But with the track temperature increasing the tyres provided another challenge to the resolute racer as they began to deteriorate and lose the conditions needed to truly mount an attack. Crossing the line in 24th place, Josh reflected on a disappointing race:


“I had a great start but I had to avoid a collision which put me on the back foot really. I focused on trying to fight my way through until unfortunately my tyres completely dropped off. It’s a learning curve for me and I’m working hard to understand more about how to manage the tyre degradation. Hopefully tomorrow will have more opportunities for us.”



Technical trials and tribulations

Under the desert sun on Saturday afternoon, the roar of Formula 3 cars echoed through the paddock as the grid formed for the Feature Race, which consists of the longer format of 45 minutes (plus one lap) of racing. 


Firing off the line with impressive accuracy, Josh was confident he had the talent and tools to fight his way forward through the field once racing was underway. However it soon became apparent that the race would not only be a fight against his opponents but also a battle against his own machinery, as he began to suffer significant loss of power. Unable to utilise the full potential of his 380HP F3 car, the tenacious young Austrian driver set about looking after his tyres as best he could with the knowledge that would benefit him later in the race. As the cars around him began to falter in the latter stages, Josh found his pace was improving and set about making some sensational passes taking two drivers in just one move with only 4 laps left to run. 

 

Unfortunately his progress was cut short by a poorly judged move from Shields, who locked up and sent Josh into a spin at Turn 1, leaving him stranded in the middle of the track. The Stewards concluded that Shields was wholly responsible for the incident and imposed a 10 second time penalty. Able to return to racing speed, Josh continued to cross the line and finish the race. 


“Initially I made a good start but I then found we had massive amounts of power loss on the straights, which proved to make our race a lot more difficult. I was catching cars towards the end but I was taken out 3 laps till the end by another driver.”

Reflecting on a difficult season opener, the Austrian driver was keen to start with a clean slate at the next round. 

“It’s been a tough weekend to start the season with and it’s far from where I know we can be. It’s good to have more racing laps in the bag and to have learned more about the tyres, but hopefully we’ve got the bad luck out of the way and we’ll reset for Melbourne.”

Joshua Dufek will be back in action at the 2nd round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 3 weeks time, when the grid take to the streets of Melbourne. 


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