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Hyderabad Blackbirds pair repeat their FRegional poles in Kuwait

by Ida Wood

Photo: FRME

Hyderabad Blackbirds powered by MP drivers Joshua Duerksen and Sami Meguetounif put themselves on pole for this week’s Formula Regional Middle East races at Kuwait Motor Town.

Points leader Andrea Kimi Antonelli started Q1 as he intended to go on, lapping 1.440 seconds faster than anyone else, but the fight for pole was actually far closer.

With six-and-a-half minutes to go of the session he was shuffled down to fourth, as PHM Racing’s Nikita Bedrin went fastest by 1.307s.

Mumbai Falcons’ Rafael Camara knocked 0.431s off Bedrin’s benchmark, and remained in front for a minute before Duerksen became the first to lap sub-1m48s.

His team-mate Meguetounif followed him into second place, 0.281s behind, with Camara improving to retain third place while Ayato Iwasaki jumped up to eighth on the timesheet.

Iwasaki is replacing Pepe Marti in Pinnacle VAR’s line-up for this round, and the two-time Japanese shifter kart champion is adding to a fairly limited single-seater CV.

He made his open-wheel racing debut in FRegional Asian Championship last year with Pinnacle Motorsport, and finished no higher than 11th. He then contested three rounds of the Japanese Formula 4 championship, and came 16th in the standing with two eighth places, before contesting the GB3 season finale and picking up a sixth place finish there.

Antonelli’s next lap in Q1 brought him back up to second, 0.077s slower than Duerksen, with Mari Boya improving in fifth place.

Meguetounif and Boya made it a Hyderabad 1-2-3 with three minutes to go, both within 0.034s of Duerksen, before Pinnacle VAR’s Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak struck trouble and the session was red flagged.

He had been as high as fourth, but would not return to track when Q1 restarted and ended up qualifying 10th.

There was actually only one improver in the top 10 following the restart, with PHM Racing’s Taylor Barnard climbing up to eighth place, and Duerksen lead a Hyderabad lockout of the top three places as he claimed his second pole out of three attempts.

Brad Benavides, who missed two races last week following a big crash, returned to action by qualifying seventh in the fourth Hyderabad car.

Q2 began with Prema’s Aiden Neate and Mumbai Falcons’ debuting Kirill Smal disputing first place, and they had brought the pace down into the low 1m48s before Hitech GP’s Luke Briwning set a 1m48.274s with seven minutes to go.

He only spent 27s on top before Barnard set a 1m47.568s and his PHM team-mate Joshua Dufek rose into second, then Antonelli came to the fore by 0.193s.

Hyderabad’s drivers were the ones to beat through, and Boya went fastest before Meguetounif bettered him by 0.018s. Duerksen slotted into third until the final minute, when Barnard and then Antonelli took the place, the latter 0.079s off pole. He could not find any more pace, meaning Meguetounif claimed his second pole.

Lorenzo Fluxa improved at the end to eighth, while Inthraphuvasak qualified last after eventually getting on track.

Qualifying round-up
1 Joshua Duerksen Hyderabad Blackbirds 1m47.819s
2 Sami Meguetounif Hyderabad Blackbirds +0.024s
3 Mari Boya Hyderabad Blackbirds +0.034s
4 Andrea Kimi Antonelli Mumbai Falcons +0.077s
5 Rafael Camara Mumbai Falcons +0.309s
6 Nikita Bedrin PHM Racing +0.351s
7 Brad Benavides Hyderabad Blackbirds +0.568s
8 Taylor Barnard PHM Racing +0.632s
9 Rafael Villagomez Pinnacle VAR +0.784s
10 Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak Pinnacle VAR +0.819s

1 Meguetounif 1m47.077s
2 Boya +0.018s
3 Antonelli +0.079s
4 Barnard +0.125s
5 Camara +0.207s
6 Duerksen +0.270s
7 Martinius Stenshorne R-ace GP +0.508s
8 Lorenzo Fluxa Mumbai Falcons +0.595s
9 Matias Zagazeta R-ace GP +0.635s
10 Kirill Smal Mumbai Falcons +0.765s