Josh Dufek came away with two point-scoring finishes from the opening triple-header of the 2021 Italian F4 Championship at Paul Ricard over the weekend, giving himself a solid foundation on which to build for the rest of a busy year.
The Van Amersfoort Racing driver, who is slated to run a dual campaign in the Italian and German national championships, headed to the south of France buoyed by some good pre-season testing performances, and appeared on course to repeat those as he placed P9 and P7 respectively in the two official practice sessions ahead of qualifying. Such is the close nature of F4 racing, however, Josh found himself shuffled out of the top ten in both qualifying sessions, placing 13th and 14th respectively despite being within a second of pole position around the 5.8km Paul Ricard layout. With second fastest laps taken into account when setting the grid for race three, Josh was even closer to the ultimate pace, but still only 11th on the final timesheets having had to contend with minor technical issues throughout.
Holding his position at the start of race one later that afternoon, Josh slowly began to make his way up the field, claiming his first scalp on lap four and another two laps later to move into 11th spot. For a long time, it appeared that this might be as good as it would get for the 16-year-old, but a stroke of luck in the closing stages elevated him one more spot, ensuring that he claimed the final point of the race, which then became two as another driver’s penalty promoted him to ninth overall.
Having opened his account at the first opportunity, and encouraged by his ability to climb through the field, Josh headed into Sunday morning’s cloudier second encounter in positive mood. This time, a good getaway saw him gaining places through the opening laps before chaos engulfed the race. Although not directly involved in any of the incidents which prompted the appearance of the safety car, the #13 Van Amersfoort car spun across the kerbs while battling for position at turn five, dropping from 11th to 30th shortly after the first restart. Once again, however, Josh was able to show his passing ability, reclaiming eight positions in the final six minutes of racing, to eventually take an unrepresentative 22nd position.
With his best grid position still to come, Josh knew that there was a chance to return to the points in the third and final outing of the weekend and, despite dropping a place on the opening lap, was quickly into his stride, reclaiming the position on lap two before claiming another brace midway through the race. Although he wasn’t to gain another position before the chequered flag, there was no time to relax as Josh ran in a closely-matched group for the remainder of the race, crossing the line in eighth place to add to his championship tally.
“It was good to score some points on my first outing in the Italian F4 Championship,” Josh reflected, “but I’m a little disappointed that we could not come away from Paul Ricard with a bigger score under our belts as our aim for the season is obviously higher than this.
“Practice had looked promising, but this is such a competitive field that dropping hundredths of a second in qualifying — be it through mistakes or technical problems — can make a big difference to your starting position. While I fought hard to get into the top ten and score some points in races one and three, the mistake in race two was a major frustration. With all the incidents going on around me, I know I could have got into the top ten again, which would have made for a good weekend.”
The Italian F4 series will also provide Dufek’s next race appearance as he moves on to round two at Misano in Italy over the weekend of 4-6 June.