Joshua Dufek claimed another podium finish amongst a strong set of results from round four of the 2023 Formula Regional Middle East Championship in Dubai, underlining the gains he and the PHM Racing team have made in recent weeks.
Returning to the scene of their first event together, Dufek and PHM hit the ground running, constantly featuring in the top three in both qualifying sessions, even as times tumbled and the order continued to change. Dufek's reward was a spot on the front row for race one and the inside of row two for the third and final race of the weekend's triple-header, with the grid for the second race to be determined by reversing the top ten finishers from the opener.
A great getaway at the start of race one immediately propelled the #13 PHM car into the lead but, in the wheel-to-wheel racing that followed, the order was reshuffled ahead of the first of the weekend's safety car appearances and, when the race subsequently finished under a second intervention, Dufek was powerless to regain a place on the podium. Ironically, a lack of safety car interruptions in race two the following morning resulted in the leaders becoming strung out, with Dufek one of the few to be chasing down opponents as the chequered flag fell, eventually crossing the line in seventh spot, but with sixth in his sights as time ran out. The position did become his, however, following the imposition of post-race penalties.
Starting third for the final race of the weekend, the 18-year-old again got a good jump at the lights to claim a position before the first corner, only for the safety car to halt any additional attempts at progress. Engrossed in a battle for position between further interruptions throughout the remaining laps, Dufek would once more find himself going wheel-to-wheel with rivals, resulting in a return to third place before the safety car neutralised proceedings to the finish. Fastest lap — his third of the championship to date — was confirmation of the pace gains found across proceeding rounds, however, allowing Dufek to head to the season finale in optimistic mood.
"Although the results were a little disappointing, we can be proud of the progress we continue to make as a team," the Swiss-based driver insisted. "Qualifying proved our potential with P2 and P3 on the grid for the first and third races, but things didn’t quite go our way after that, with a number of safety car periods breaking up the battles for position.
"Nevertheless, fighting at the front all weekend and finishing in the points each race — including the podium in race three — is a testament to the consistency we are now managing to achieve, and I'm looking forward to the final round of the championship, in Abu Dhabi this coming weekend, where I'll continue to fight at the front for the results we've worked so hard for."
The fifth and final round of the 2023 Formula Regional Middle East Championship takes place at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi over the weekend of 18-19 February.