Josh Dufek claimed a third podium finish in as many F4 outings as the Italian national series visited the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola over the weekend.
The 16-year-old added to recent top three showings in the previous round of the Italian championship at Vallelunga and Zandvoort, in Germany’s ADAC series, as his Van Amersfoort Racing team dominated the silverware in a tumultuous opening race at the recently-revived F1 circuit.
Missing the pre-event test at Imola did not appear to hinder VAR, with three of its five drivers in the top ten after official practice, including Dufek, who slotted into sixth spot after 36 laps of acclimatisation. The Swiss-native went faster still in qualifying, summoning a big improvement late in the opening session to vault into fourth place and, although a red flag stoppage in Q2 prevented a similar result, that first session performance was enough to net fifth on the grid for race three, where a driver’s second best lap across both sessions sets the grid.
A chaotic start to race one saw the safety car called into action at the end of the opening lap, prompting Dufek — who had dropped a couple of spots after putting a wheel into the gravel — to mount a recovery drive. In company with one of his VAR team-mates, the youngster immediately began moving back up the order, reaching third place by lap seven and holding the position to the chequered flag to add to his trophy haul as Van Amersfoort’s orange-and-black colours again monopolised the podium.
The safety car also impacted race two, but the interruptions merely delayed another Dufek charge, which began with a three-place jump on the opening lap. A similar gain a few laps later moved the #13 machine into the top six before the first safety car, but contact from another car shortly after the restart undid Dufek’s good work as he was pushed into the gravel and dropped back to ninth. Undaunted, he set about reclaiming the lost ground and, with the safety car required again, made the most of his pace after the restart to eventually move back to sixth.
The third and final race of the weekend, getting underway late on Sunday afternoon, was far less eventful, with Dufek running fifth throughout. However, the closing stages were enlivened by his pursuit of race two assailant Sebastian Montoya as the leading quintet broke away from the pack, only for a red flag to bring an early end to proceedings and prevent a move for the top four.
“Another weekend of promise and frustration in equal measure,” Dufek reflected. “Obviously, it was great to be back on the podium in race one, but we had such great pace in the car that we could have had more. The safety car worked for and against us — and probably evened out across the three races — but the #13 machine was flying, so the interruptions were galling. We were consistently in the top two or three sector times and able to battle with anyone around us, so top three finishes — if not more — should be the expectation from now on.”
Dufek is next due on track in two weeks’ time, contesting round three of Germany’s ADAC F4 series at the Nurburgring over the weekend of 6-8 August.