Race 1 of the second round of the Formula Regional Middle East Championship at Yas Marina Circuit saw R-ace GP’s Tuukka Taponen claim his maiden Formula Regional win after a hard-fought battle to maintain P1 from his pole position start.

Taponen grew his lead with an excellent race start, leading the pack into T1 and blocking PHM AIX’s Taylor Barnard, who attempted a move down the inside. Pinnacle Motorsport’s Mari Boya and R-ace GP’s Martinius Stenshorne took advantage of the situation, sending Barnard back to P4.

At T5, Sainteloc Racing’s Theophile Nael clipped Barnard’s left rear and sent Barnard into a spin that put him at the back of the field. A frustrating situation for Barnard, having started in P2. Nael was given a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision, dropping his finishing position to P8.

Boya was sitting in P2, before a battle with Stenshorne in P3 caused him to run wide, going airborne briefly as he hit a kerb. As a result, Boya lost his position and rejoined in P3.

Further back, Pinnacle Motorsport’s Alexander Abkhazava spun at T16, causing him to face backwards into the pit wall of the main paddock. The safety car was brought out, and all cars on track had to drive through the main paddock’s pitlane until the green flag was brought out.

The safety car diminished Taponen’s lead, which had grown to over three seconds before the safety car. Stenshorne put the pressure on as soon as the race had restarted, with both drivers running wide at T16 and Stenshorne coming out ahead to claim P1.

Stenshorne ran wide at T1, allowing Taponen to get closer to the race leader despite the building pressure from Nael in P3. With Taponen closing in on Stenshorne and Nael closing in on Taponen, the three went side-by-side down the main straight. Taponen had the inside line as Stenshorne attempted a dive around the outside, besting Nael but unable to maintain his leading position, handing P1 back to his teammate Taponen.

Boya, having lost P4 to Sainteloc Racing’s Matteo De Palo after the safety car restart, was able to capitalise on the drama and regain P4, holding it until the end of the race. A penalty for Nael granted Boya the final podium position.

De Palo struggled to keep positions in the closing stages of the race, losing P5 to finish P7 after Mumbai Falcons’ teammates Rafael Camara and James Wharton overtook him.

The race concluded with a hard-earned victory for Taponen, with Stenshorne settling for P2, and Boya rounding out the podium.

Barnard, who started the race in P2, was able to recover positions to finish P16 after his incident earlier in the race.

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