British F3: Bittersweet weekend for Reema Juffali at Donington Park
"Lots of positives to take" in latest Donington Park British F3 round for Reema Juffali, as the Saudi racer started once again from reverse-grid pole, battled hard and ran in fifth until a late spin in Race 3.
Douglas Motorsport's Reema Juffali headed to Donington Park for the third round of the BRDC British F3 championship - her rookie season in the series having stepped up from British F4. The first Saudi female racing driver was coming from her breakthrough performance at Silverstone two week's ago, where she scored a fourth place - and her best finish in single-seaters.
Juffali is really starting to capitalize on what she's learning weekend after weekend and, especially in the reverse grid races, it is increasingly common to see her fighting elbows out in the front-running positions.
At Donington, it turned out to be a bittersweet weekend for Reema, who was once again on reverse-grid pole and showed more progress, but ultimately missed out on a top-10.
She qualified 17th for the first race of the weekend.
O'Sullivan, who started from pole, went side by side with Reece Ushijima at the race start but held on to his position a few corners later. Faria was slow off the start and was avoided by the incoming pack.
Having fought for the lead, Zak O'Sullivan managed to open a big gap over both Ushijima in second and Sagrera in third.
Reema Juffali had a great start and overtook four cars at the first corner to advanced into P13.
On lap two, Simmons moved ahead of both Aron and Juffali, as the leader continued to increase his gap to the pursuers. Further down, Faria passed Grundtvig for 16th - the Swede would respond back a few laps later.
On lap four, Mansell, Horsten and Patterson got into a big battle, bringing some action back into the race. Horsten went wide at the Old Hairpin and he lost a place to Patterson. Sagrera was also putting pressure on second-placed Ushijima.
O'Sullivan took a dominant win, extending his championship lead. Ushijima crossed the line in second, edging Sagrera in third - but the latter received a 10 second penalty for jumping the start.
Reema Juffali had lost the position to Aron in the closing stages and was 16th - she struggled at end of the race due to worn tyres and a few mistakes, as she later stated:
The Saudi Arabian driver was P17 on the grid, with Zak O'Sullivan once again lining up on pole, next to Alex Connor and ahead of Reece Ushijima.
There were no changes at the front after the start; Horsten got close to his teammate and championship contender Ushijima, locked up and almost collected him. Juffali, meanwhile, gained one position.
The only female driver in the series went on the inside of Grundtvig and climbed one more place in 15th - unfortunately, a few moments later, she had a lock-up herself and damaged her front wing - which wasn't really helpful due to the downforce needed at the Old Hairpin. She went off onto the grass and then into the pits to change the wing. Ultimately, she retired from race two.
The Hitech cars did collide in the fight for third - a widely avoidable situation that meant that Ushijima's race was done due to a broken front suspension. Horsten continued and came home fifth, only to be disqualified, and handed a five-place grid penalty for race three with four additional penalty points on his licence.
Faria inherited third, taking advantage of the Hitech drivers' accident. In the end, championship leader Zak O'Sullivan banked yet another victory, followed by Alex Connor and Roberto Faria.
Because of the reverse grid rule, Reema Juffali started from pole position, joined by Marzorati on the front row.
The latter had a better reaction, just like a handful of other drivers, resulting in Marzorati taking the lead from Grundtvig and Simmons. The Saudi racer, unfortunately, dropped to fifth, then sixth in the opening stages.
Zak O'Sullivan and his championship rival Ushijima crashed - causing the Hitech driver to make impact with the barriers. Both were okay.
Reema Juffali was overtaken by Lebbon for sixth, just before the Safety Car was deployed and Sagrera went into the pits for a wing change. Soon, the green flag was waved again - Juffali fought back and made a brilliant move to get back into sixth position.
Marzorati and Grundtvig had a great side by side battle - which helped Simmons to get closer and he attacked Marzorati but went off on the grass and rejoined in ninth place. That promoted Juffali to P5 and helped Grundtvig to keep the lead. Reema started to catch up on the leader and closed the gap. Unfortunately, she spun and went off - it was the end of her very impressive race.
Alvarez and Garfias received a 5-second penalty for track limits violation.
At the chequered flag, Grundtvig took the win, with Marzorati second and Lebbon rounding out the podium.
“Qualifying was tough, but I was pleased with the races. My pace was improving, I got my elbows out and got some confidence with my racecraft. I think in the final race I was able to show everything I’ve learnt in the last few rounds and there’s a lot of positives to take to Spa.”
- said Reema Juffali.
The British F3 Championship continues in two weeks’ time (24/25 July) at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.