PHM Racing’s Taylor Barnard and R-ace GP’s Tuukka Taponen topped Formula Regional Middle East’s two qualifying sessions at Yas Marina Circuit.
The 29-car field looked slightly different to the previous round, with Kanato Le replacing Martinius Stenshorne at R-ace, Arvid Lindblad being absent from Mumbai Falcons’ line-up, Evans GP growing to three cars with the addition of Edgar Pierre and Enzo Peugeot replacing Noah Stromsted at Sainteloc Racing.
Pierre has spent the last two years in French Formula 4, coming 13th in 2022 and rising to ninth in the 2023 standings with one podium.
Fellow Frenchman Peugeot has followed the same career path, and he took two win in French F4 en route to fifth in the standings then last year was championship runner-up with seven victories.
Peugeot has only been confirmed to be racing this weekend, while Pierre will contest the final two rounds of the season.
The pair had contrasting fortunes in the sole practice session on Friday morning, with Peugeot being half a second off the pace in ninth place while Pierre was slowest as despite setting 10 laps he recorded no laptimes at a representative pace and his best effort ended up being 14.93 seconds slower than the 1m49.859s benchmark set by Zachary David (R-ace).
Just 0.042s covered the top three, which was completed by Ugo Ugochukwu (Mumbai Falcons) and points leader Taponen.
Laptimes were slower in the first qualifying session, where track limits proved to be a big issue as 14 laptimes by 12 different drivers were deleted over the issue.
Barnard claimed pole with a 1m50.323s, set halfway through his run, with David 0.137s slower than him in second place. Taponen was a further 0.023s off the pace in third, with gaps of less than a tenth of a second between each position going down to 12th place.
Evans GP’s Costa Toparis was fourth fastest, and James Wharton was the lead Mumbai Falcons driver in fifth.
Title outsiders Rafael Camara (Mumbai Falcons) and Mari Boya (Pinnacle Motorsport) did not have a great session, only qualifying 10th and 11th, with Peugeot in 17th and Pierre down in 27th.
The deletion of Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak’s fastest laps meant the PHM driver was left with a 2m03.229s as his best standing effort. That was almost two seconds slower than the 110% pace limit, meaning he will require permission to start race one.
Taponen lowered the pace to 1m49.493s in Q2 to take pole for race three by 0.299s over Wharton. David continued to show strong pace by qualifying third, with Barnard 0.451s off the pace in fourth and Ugochukwu 0.515s slower than Taponen in fifth.
Boya and Camara again underperformed, qualifying seventh and eighth, while Inthraphuvasak bounced back from his Q1 dissapointment by going ninth fastest. Despite the big gaps at the front, the top 17 were covered by 0.992s. Absent from the session was Sainteloc’s Jose Garfias.
1 Taylor Barnard PHM Racing 1m50.323s
2 Zachary David R-ace GP +0.137s
3 Tuukka Taponen R-ace GP +0.160s
4 Costa Toparis Evans GP +0.218s
5 James Wharton Mumbai Falcons +0.229s
6 Ugo Ugochukwu Mumbai Falcons +0.242s
7 Brando Badoer PHM Racing +0.280s
8 Alexander Abkhazava Pinnacle Motorsport +0.357s
9 Theophile Nael Sainteloc Racing +0.430s
10 Rafael Camara Mumbai Falcons +0.482s
1 Taponen 1m49.493s
2 Wharton +0.299s
3 David +0.396s
4 Barnard +0.451s
5 Ugochukwu +0.515s
6 Toparis +0.676s
7 Mari Boya Pinnacle Motorsport +0.687s
8 Camara +0.718s
9 Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak PHM Racing +0.734s
10 Nikhil Bohra MP Motorsport +0.771s