F4 UAE: Title contenders emerge in Abu Dhabi as multiple race winners crowned
Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 3, 2019 – Two early title contenders have emerged at the second round of the 2019 F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth, as rookies Matteo Nannini from Italy and Joshua Dürksen from Paraguay became the only multiple-race winners of the season after winning at Yas Marina Circuit.
Now with three race wins each, Nannini (#15) and Dürksen (#27) arrived at and left the weekend leading the championship standings respectively, but now have extended their margin over nearest rival Lucas Roy (#8) from Dragon Racing in third outright.
Having already won a race each at the opening round in Dubai last month, both frontrunners shared the four race victories at the famed F1 circuit, with Dürksen also claiming pole position on Friday – his first in single-seaters.
“It is wonderful to see these rookies being very strong competitors so early in the season and I hope they will very much be fighting at the end,” said Mohamed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sport Federation, and FIA Vice President for Sport. “It is impressive to see every driver making great learnings in our UAE championship and we look forward to seeing more of the other drivers being successful too when we return to Dubai Autodrome in two weeks.”
Six hours of sanctioned testing and official practice was held during the lead-up to racing, with Roy the only driver with experience racing in F4UAE on the International Circuit configuration. Xcel Motorsport expanded to a five-car team with the addition of Tijmen van der Helm from the Netherlands making his single-seater debut, bringing the field up to 11 cars.
While Nannini claimed pole at Round 1, he was beaten by 1/10th of a second by Dürksen with a time of 2m13.381s, giving he and the Mücke Motorsport team their first pole position in F4UAE.
Race 1 was dominated by Nannini who capitalised on Dürksen’s misfortune of stalling on the startline. While making up positions on the opening lap, the polesitter was lucky to miss his teammate Nico Göhler who spun near the West Grandstand and caused a Safety Car for two laps. On the restart, the championship leader remained out front but not without being pressured by Roy and Rui Andrade (#88) who finished second and third, giving a double podium result to Dragon Racing. Rookie Filip Kaminiarz (#55) from Poland finished a commendable fourth place, just half a second off a podium result and his best result this season.
Saturday morning’s reverse grid Race 2 saw newcomer Tijmen van der Helm (#13) start off pole position, with Dürksen alongside and hungry for redemption after the race one dramas. While the Paraguay driver raced away from the field and finished more than eight seconds in front, a battle ensued behind between Roy, van der Helm and Nannini who all crossed the finishline in order. However, Roy was given a post-race five second penalty for shortcutting the circuit, resulting in van der Helm receiving second place and Nannini third.
Race 3 had Nannini and Dürksen again on the front row; their starting positions were determined by their second fastest lap in qualifying. However, this time it was Nannini who faltered on the start, falling back to ninth on the opening lap and having to work to finish a credible fifth outright by race’s end. Roy and Omani driver Shihab Al Habsi (#34) rounded out the podium behind Dürksen who claimed this third race victory this season.
The final reverse grid race start was delayed due to Roy being stuck on track on the warmup lap. Once rejoined, van der Helm and Nannini started off the front row for the revised 23-minute race distance, with the Italian taking the lead by turn one and the newcomer being swamped by the rest of the field. Dürksen moved from sixth to third on lap one and another place forward by lap two. Al Habsi also closely chased the frontrunning duo but couldn’t catch them to finish third. A post-race five-second penalty was applied to Dürksen, however, for shortcutting the track which resulted in his final position falling one behind the Omani 15-year-old, who was promoted to runner-up for Race 4.
Matteo Nannini, Xcel Motorsport (#15): “We are so happy for this result because we did some practice before the race weekend and it gave me more confidence. We didn’t do P1 in qualifying because I did a mistake but I want to be a better driver and if we are winning this way it is the better way to learn. Yas Marina Circuit is very beautiful, it is always one of my goals to race here at night and so I’m very happy I could win here.”
Paul Hardy, Team Manager of Xcel Motorsport: “Matteo is doing a great job, he’s done a lot of sim work ahead of the event and he’s just been improving all weekend to then come away with two wins. Even though he got a bit of an unfortunate start in one race, overall we’re really happy for him. We knew from the first test day back in December that he would be a good driver and a real contender for the title which we are really focused on winning.”
Joshua Dürksen, Mücke Motorsport (#27): “I didn’t think I could win two races in a row so it’s incredible. I was able to make a big distance from the other drivers and get in front. The car is very good and very fast and helped me to finish so far in front of everyone when I won. There are very good drivers here too so by winning it is the best way to get a lot of points for the championship.”
Wito van Kuijeren, F4UAE Team Manager of Mücke Motorsport: “Dubai last month was a new circuit for us in F4UAE so our speed and Joshua’s didn’t really show, even though he won a race. But we have raced at Yas Marina Circuit before with these cars so it wasn’t a surprise that we topped a lot of the timesheets. Joshua is doing better by the minute, he understands very well how to stop a car, and brake performance is one of his biggest strengths so job well done to him. It is unfortunate that there were some technical issues with Nico [Göhler]’s car but we’re going back to Dubai next time which is where he got a podium already, so we’re expecting a better weekend for him there.”
Round 3 of the 2019 F4UAE Championship will return to the Dubai Autodrome from February 14-16. Championship standings will be made available on www.f4uae.com in the coming days once signed off by category management.