Joshua Dufek was confounded by a combination of the conditions and cruel luck as the 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine campaign got underway at Monza over the weekend.
Encouraged by his pace in pre-season testing, the ADAC and Italian F4 graduate headed to the Autodromo Nazionale looking to make an immediate impact on the rookie standings — his main focus on the step up to the more powerful F3 category — and showed his familiarity with the famed Italian circuit by posting the sixth-fastest time of opening practice on Friday. The session was run entirely in dry conditions, but the weather that blighted F1's Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola would also affect the FRECA weekend.
With a massive 37-car field entered for the opening Formula Regional round, series organisers took the decision to revise their qualifying procedure, splitting the entry into two separate groups, which would run back-to-back to determine the grid order. Unfortunately for Josh, he not only found himself in the slower group — which dictated that he start from an even-numbered slot on the outside of the grid — but, having run second fastest in the early stages, was sent to the back of the grid for bringing out the red flags when his Van Amersfoort Racing Tatuus spun at Ascari late on.
With a tough task already in store, Josh's attempts to make progress through the field were further hampered by the return of rain before Saturday afternoon's opening race, with chaotic scenes further up the order requiring no fewer than three safety car interruptions to clear damaged cars from the circuit. Keeping his head while those around him were losing theirs, Josh climbed steadily through the ranks, eventually coming home in a meritable 19th position, and just 11 seconds adrift of the race winner after gaining 19 spots over his starting slot.
Hoping for a change of fortune overnight, the Swiss resident was disappointed to find the conditions conspiring against him for a second time. With his group scheduled to run first in Sunday qualifying — in response to being the second group on Saturday — Josh could only watch as the track dried significantly after he had taken the chequered flag, and eighth in session became 16th on the grid. With the dry track surface remaining for the race, there was significantly less mayhem but, while the safety car again made appearances, Josh proved quick throughout, posting top six lap times as he climbed the order.
“It feels good to get the first FRECA weekend under my belt, but a shame that we could not come away with something to show for it,” Josh admitted after taking the chequered flag in 13th place. “Our pace was really good, right up there as the best of the rookies, but we just didn’t quite manage to piece it together in qualifying which, of course, set us back for the races. However, there was enough to take away from the weekend that I think we can feel confident going into the next few rounds.”
Round two of the 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine takes place at Imola, also in Italy, over the weekend of 7-8 May.