Joshua Dufek racked up his first Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) pole position on a hyper-competitive weekend at the Hungaroring, before strengthening his championship position with a useful haul of points from the Budapest double-header.
Once race one winner Martinius Stenshorne had set a target time in the final moments of the first part of race two qualifying, Josh and the second tranche took to the track, knowing that conditions were likely to continue improving if they didn't trip over themselves. The Van Amersfoort Racing cars were quick from the off, with Josh coming through to top an ever-changing leaderboard in the final stages — and then going quicker still with a lap of 1min 39.003secs as the session ended to head the group by an unexpectedly wide 0.264-second margin. His time also bettered that of Stenshorne, putting the #13 VAR machine on pole position for race two later that afternoon.
“I’m very happy but, at the same time, I knew that we had this potential, so I’m just glad that we managed to extract it all," Josh commented. "This is the result of so much work from the team, from us, from everyone, and it is nice to have a payoff in terms of results. This is really a track where you are really on the edge so, when you get a good lap like I did, is really satisfying.”
The Swiss youngster had been confident of a good performance heading into qualifying, bolstered both by a good performance last time out in Barcelona and hitting the ground fast in Hungary, where he lapped just 0.022secs off the pace in Friday practice. Qualifying for race one only confirmed Josh's potential, as he vied for top spot before ending the session third-fastest in his group — just 0.106secs off top spot — to line up on the outside of row three.
Unlike FRECA's 2022 visit to Budapest, where Josh was able to showcase his passing prowess, the racing was more processional this time around, despite the closely-matched competition at the front of the 34-car field. Although he remained in contention for a possible podium finish throughout the 30-minute race, Josh ultimately had to settle for sixth place in Saturday's opening race, maintaining his starting position.
There was further frustration on Sunday afternoon, too, as, despite a good getaway, Josh found himself being passed by Stenshorne into Turn One and, with his line compromised, also conceded another position to drop to third on the road. Although he had the pace to remain in the battle, the teenager was kept honest by pressure from behind and positions remained unchanged through a series of safety car interruptions that, while keeping the #13 in with a chance of improving his position, also meant that he had to drive with one eye on his mirrors to resist attack on his podium spot. Dufek's resistance lasted until the final lap when, following another restart, he was forced back to fourth place.
"With the track being technical and without many long straights, I knew that racing was going to be difficult but, even starting my first race from P6, I wanted to secure some good points and, if possible, move forward a couple of positions in the process," the youngster reflected. "Unfortunately, the race turned out to be very boring and, after a pretty uneventful start, the positions stayed the same and I finished where I started.
"For race two, the start was everything and, although my initial launch was as good as it could have been, the rear tyres went into wheelspin and I immediately got swarmed by the two cars behind me. From there on, I fell back to P3 and drove a frustrating, safety car-dominated, race that made it impossible to make back any of the positions I lost.
"However, despite knowing that we could have dominated the weekend from start to finish with the pace we had, it was still really positive to come away with my first pole position, the second-best points haul of anyone and a bigger haul than I managed in Barcelona. Despite missing out on a podium in race two, every step — like that first pole position — is a step in the right direction. I think we are all aware of the areas that need improvement, but let‘s not forget the positives along the way. It's all part of the process of getting closer to where I want to be."
Round four of the 2023 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine takes place at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, with races on Friday and Saturday in support of the Spa 24 Hours over the weekend of 30 June-2 July.