Reema Juffali finishes rookie GB3 season battling around the Top-10 in Race 3
Saudi racer Reema Juffali concluded her first season in GB3 Championship - formerly known as British F3 - with the Donington finale, where she was close to another Top10 in race 3. Juffali made impressive steps forward throughout the season.
Coming from two seasons in British F4 - where she collected several top ten finishes - Reema Juffali made the step up to British F3 at the beginning of 2021. The now rebranded GB3 Championship marked an impressive step forward for Juffali's development, who scored points on a consistent basis and often battled around the top-10.
The highlight of the season remains the fourth place at Silverstone, where the first female Saudi racing driver held off the competition with masterful driving to finish one step away from the podium.
A few unfortunate rounds and contacts surely prevented Juffali to end the season with a couple more deserved top-five results, but her improvement has been noticeable throughout the 8-round season.
Donington Park hosted the final triple-header of 2021, in the series' second annual visit to the circuit.
At the start of the qualifying session for the season finale, Reema Juffali set the fourth fastest time; later on, she would even manage to become the session leader as times started to drop. Reece Ushijima went on top with 10 minutes to go, before Zak O'Sullivan got into provisional pole - and ultimately remained on top of the timing screens because of a red flag brought out by Reema Juffali's excursion in the gravel. The Saudi racer finished 20th.
Zak O'Sullivan had one mission in order to be crowned GB3 champion: finish the race.
But no racing driver only wants to finish - they want to win.
Right from the start, he had to defend his race lead from the attacks of Bilinski and Ushijima, who followed him closely and were determined to take the win.
Stewards decided to bring out the Safety Car after a crash that involved the cars of Horsten, Alvarez, Faria, and Mansell. The clash had played in the hands of Juffali, who was moving up the order and was already close to the Top-10. But the neutralization ultimately triggered another contact: Tommy Smith couldn't change gear and slow down, and hit the back of Reema Juffali's car. Unfortunately, it was the end of the race for the Douglas Motorsport's duo.
Right after the restart, O'Sullivan began to build a gap over Ushijima. Also, Faria was moving up the order. Ushijima got closer, but the championship leader fought back and won the race, becoming GB3 champion. Reece Ushijima crossed the line in second, Roman Bilinski in third.
The weather conditions significantly worsened on Sunday and two formation laps were required before the rolling start.
Reema Juffali kept her 20th position, while a few skirmishes saw Bilinski almost driving into Mansell and Horsten going wide during the fight with O'Sullivan. The newly crowned champion managed to move into the lead and Bilinski got into P4.
Lebbon had lost his front wing due to a contact with Faria and Alvarez - who was looking to make the most out of a battle between Bilinski and Simmons to gain a position - went off. Reema Juffali had a clean run and moved into P19.
The battle between Bilinski and Simmons heated up, but remained clean. Simmons made an incredible move and passed the Polish driver and finished fifth.
O'Sullivan won once again, ahead of Reece Ushijima, who again crossed the line in second place. Australian Christian Mansell was third. Reema Juffali finished race 2 in P18 and scored points.
Due to the reverse grid rule, Juffali started the race from the front row. Mikkel Grundtvig retained the lead from pole, while Juffali defended fourth after the first lap.
Zak O'Sullivan quickly started to move up through the field, as Ayrton Simmons broke his front wing and had to pit.
Reece Ushijima, who was fighting for the front-running positions, also hit trouble and pitted, thus dropping to the tail-end of the pack. A few minutes later, Mansell almost took out Horsten by rejoining the track from an off-track moment - the two tangled but continued.
Reema Juffali had settled into a good rhythm in fourth place, holding off the more experienced competitors. Just as she was looking strongly in contention for another fourth place finish, she slid on the grass and dropped to eighth. Later, she received a 5-second penalty for exceeding track limits, which compromised her fight for the Top-10.
Grundtvig took victory in Race 3, preceding Fores and Lubin. Juffali was classified in 15th place, rounding out her rookie season in GB3.
“I felt so much happier in the dry on this track." - she said. "The start was tricky on the hill and that resulted in wheelspin, but following that I had a good rhythm and some good wheel to wheel action."
"Everything I’ve learned this season has 100% made me a better driver; competitive racing, weather changes, and even the mishaps. These UK tracks push you hard, it’s been a great experience.”
During the whole season, Reema Juffali has improved her racecraft and continued to add vital mileage to get steadily closer to the Top10. By improving qualifying, the Saudi driver can aspire at the top half of the classify if she were to return to GB3 in 2022.