Joshua Dufek was largely confined to the wings as the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine starred on its biggest stage of the season, running in support of the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.
Three weeks on from opening his FRECA points account with a battling tenth place at Imola, 17-year-old Josh headed to the Principality optimistic of another good result, despite both the complexity of an unfamiliar street circuit and the sheer competitiveness of the Formula Regional grid. Fortunately for the entire 37-strong field, the rain that blighted the opening two rounds of the season in Italy stayed away until after the supporting cast had played their part, removing an important variable from the challenge of navigating the most famous street circuit in the world.
Despite the circuit remaining dry, however, red flags and incidents continued to plague the FRECA sessions, preventing many drivers from getting into the sort of flow necessary for producing competitive lap times. Josh, though, was an exception, producing sector times that — had they been combined into a single lap — would have confirmed the Swiss resident amongst the top ten performers, instead of 17th overall, in Thursday's single practice session, which saw all 37 cars jostling for position.
To the relief of many, and in line with FRECA's season-long policy, Friday's early morning qualifying session saw the massive entry list split into two groups, with Josh due to be amongst the first cohort on track. With a 28-car grid capacity meaning those who qualified outside of the top 19 would only get to start one of the weekend's two races, however, his high hopes after practice were to be dashed as, amidst more incidents — including the session finishing with a car stranded in the famous tunnel — a mechanical problem on the #13 machine left too much ground to be made up and Josh on the outside looking in from 20th on the timesheets.
"Having shown promising pace in practice, this was particularly galling," Josh admitted. "Finishing P10 in Group A meant that we were one spot outside the qualifiers and unable to compete in the first race of the weekend. But luck just wasn’t on our side and starting on the back foot after a mechanical failure meant qualifying was a steep mountain to climb."
Although Lady Luck had not smiled on Josh at one of the great casinos of international motorsport, he would at least get a chance to show his potential on Sunday, as the curtain rose on F1's blue riband race day. Starting from the back end of the grid was always going to be a difficult task, however, and wing damage from a typical Monaco skirmish further added to Josh's woes as he was forced into an unanticipated pit-stop for repairs. However, after that, he showed the sort of passing form that had marked his earlier two appearances in the series, making up several positions to eventually be classified 22nd overall.
“It's been a tough pill to swallow with the misfortunes of the weekend, but there's no denying that driving this circuit is a massive thrill,” Josh enthused. “The incident with the front wing was just bad luck and a consequence of the tight confines of Monaco – but the challenge wouldn't be the same without that. I've gained loads of experience from this meeting alone and I'm looking forward to carrying that into the rest of the championship, starting next weekend at Paul Ricard."
Round four of the 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine takes the field a couple of hours west along the Mediterranean to Circuit Paul Ricard, over the weekend of 4-5 June.