The Yas Marina Circuit witnessed the adrenaline-fueled start of the Formula Regional Middle East Championship, featuring intense competition and unexpected twists throughout Round 1.

 

The build-up to the championship began with six testing sessions spread over Wednesday and Thursday. Teams tested on the regular GP circuit layout on Wednesday before taking on the unique corkscrew configuration on Thursday. Round 1 marked the only occasion this season where teams navigated the challenging Corkscrew layout, a complex combination of the South and part of the North circuits, featuring 21 corners, including a unique hairpin bend beneath the W Hotel.

Teams utilised the testing sessions to fine-tune their race pace, test various tire strategies, optimise setups, and later shifted focus to qualifying pace in the final three testing sessions. The unique challenge of the Corkscrew layout presented a learning curve for drivers, evident in the 104 lap times deleted during one session for track limit infringements.

 

Six different drivers showcased their prowess, topping each of the six testing sessions. Ugo Ugochukwu, Tuukka Taponen, Rafael Camara, Theophile Nael, James Wharton, and Arvid Lindblad all secured top-3 finishes, setting the stage for a highly competitive season.

 

The championship officially kicked off on Friday with Costa Toparis of Evans GP leading the first testing session, narrowly missing the 1:42s with a time of 1:43.086. The competition intensified in the second testing session as Mari Boya claimed the top spot with a swift 1:42.552, setting the tone for the weekend.

 

Qualifying 1 saw Taylor Barnard of PHM AIX Racing shock the grid by securing pole position with a time of 1:42.034. The margins were incredibly close as R-ace GP’s Taponen claimed P2 with a 1:43.08, 0.046 seconds off pole. Mumbai Falcons’s Wharton rounded out the top 3 with a 1:43.09.

In an incredibly competitive grid, the top 23 cars (out of 29 entrants) were all within 0.894 seconds of each other.

 

Qualifying 2 continued the trend of close margins, with the top 8 drivers breaking into the 1:42s. Barnard secured another pole with a commanding 1:42.374, and was able to convert it into a dominant win in Race 1 over a competitive field. R-ace GP’s Taponen and Martinius Stenshorne claimed P2 and P3, respectively, showcasing the depth of talent in the championship.

 

Race 2 featured a reverse grid, with Red Bull Junior Arvid Lindblad on pole position, followed by Pinnacle Motorsport’s Alexander Abkhazava, and finally R-ace GP’s Zachary David.

 

The race was not without its share of drama, including penalties for track limit infringements and incidents affecting multiple drivers. Camara saw a 5-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track limits, but the steward’s decision was rendered pointless when he was forced to retire on lap 10 due to his incident with Mumbai Falcons’ teammate James Wharton, who dove down the inside and spun out Camara.

MP Motorsport’s Nikhil Bohra was also awarded a 5-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track limits, taking him from P11 to P16. Wang Zhongwei of R&B Racing was forced to retire on lap 2 after he lost control and spun into the barriers at turn 1, bringing out a safety car.

 

Pinnacle Motorsport’s Finley Green retired on lap 3 due to a crash damaged from a suspected collision under safety car conditions with Gao Yujia, who also suffered from damage but was able to continue his race. Nael was awarded a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision, dropping him from P8 to P10.

 

The final race of the weekend saw Barnard start on pole after his electric performance in the second qualifying session. But Barnard was unable to hold onto P1 with Stenshorne’s competitive pace, falling back to P2.

 

A dramatic race start saw Camara retire once again after making contact with another car, getting airtime before hitting the barriers. PHM AIX Racing’s Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak was also affected by the incident, suffering from race-ending damage.

In a heartbreaking twist, Stenshorne was denied his first win when he was given a 5-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track limits, handing P1 back to Barnard, who comfortably brought his car over the finish line. Despite the penalty, Stenshorne claimed his third podium in the first three races, showing he is a force to be reckoned with this season. Ugochukwu rounded out the podium with a 2.8-second gap to Taponen in P4.

 

Further down the grid, MP Motorsport’s Emerson Fittipaldi faced disqualification for a technical infringement and retired his car on lap 12. Sainteloc Racing’s Pedro Clerot was only able to complete 1 lap of the race before he was forced to retire due to an incident at turn 1. R-ace GP’s Jesse Carrasquedo was awarded a 5-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track limits, dropping him from P12 to P14.

The competitive grid, featuring talents from across the globe, promises an exhilarating season. Round 2 is set to unfold on the GP layout of the Yas Marina Circuit from January 19-21, with all races available for live streaming on the official Formula Regional Middle East Championship YouTube channel.

 

As the season progresses, fans can anticipate more breathtaking battles and unpredictable outcomes in this highly competitive series.

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