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Taponen cruises to FRME title with commanding victory in Dubai

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: FRMEC

Tuukka Taponen claimed the Formula Regional Middle East title with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the opening race at Dubai Autodrome.

The Ferrari junior headed home team-mate Zachary David, helping earn his R-ace GP squad the teams’ title with two races to spare.

As poleman Taponen made a break at the front, PHM Racing’s Brando Badoer bogged down on the outside of the front row, allowing a fast-starting David up to second from fourth on the grid.

Badoer immediately came under further pressure around the opening lap, losing out to Ugo Ugochukwu before running wide at turn 15, dropping him behind the McLaren junior’s Mumbai Falcons team-mates Rafael Camara and James Wharton.

Badoer lost another place to MP Motorsport’s Bruno del Pino on the next lap, although he was able to reclaim the position on lap three with a dive to the inside at turn 10.

Behind del Pino, Taponen’s sole title rival Taylor Barnard was trying to make up places from 12th on the grid. However, as the PHM driver battled with del Pino he lost out to a move around the outside by Pinnacle Motorsport’s Mari Boya.

The unfortunate del Pino was forced to pit at the end of lap four with a damaged wing, promoting Boya to seventh with Barnard still looking for a way back past.

Out front, having built up a lead of just under 1.5 seconds, Taponen was content to maintain the gap to David in second.

David in turn was not under threat from Ugochukwu and Camara as the three ran line astern, over two seconds clear of Wharton.

Badoer was still trying to make up ground he lost at the start, passing Wharton for fifth on lap seven and while he was able to halve the gap to Camara over the remaining laps he was unable to come within range of the Ferrari protege.

Taponen put in a couple of quick laps at the end to extend his lead to over two seconds once his victory was assured.

In a race short of incident, the rest of the top 10 remained unchanged with Wharton taking sixth ahead of Boya and Barnard.

Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak took ninth for PHM, with MP Motorsport’s Emmo Fittipaldi taking the final points position and pole for the reversed-grid second race.

Race result (16 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Tuukka Taponen R-ace GP 31m37.635s
2 Zachary David R-ace GP +2.263s
3 Ugo Ugochukwu Mumbai Falcons +3.129s
4 Rafael Camara Mumbai Falcons +3.992s
5 Brando Badoer PHM Racing +6.148s
6 James Wharton Mumbai Falcons +8.969s
7 Mari Boya Pinnacle Motorsport +11.235s
8 Taylor Barnard PHM Racing +17.756s
9 Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak PHM Racing +19.342s
10 Emmo Fittipaldi MP Motorsport +22.852s
11 Kanato Le R-ace GP +24.760s
12 Enzo Peugeot Sainteloc Racing +25.598s
13 Jesse Carrasquedo R-ace GP +27.566s
14 Costa Toparis Evans GP +28.510s
15 Alexander Abkhazava Pinnacle Motorsport +31.951s
16 Jose Garfias Sainteloc Racing +32.753s
17 Ruiqi Liu PHM Racing +36.586s
18 John Bennett Evans GP +37.306s
19 Giovanni Maschio Pinnacle Motorsport +41.417s
20 Yujia Gao R&B Racing +43.714s
21 Isaac Barashi MP Motorsport +46.714s
22 Yaroslav Veselaho Xcel Motorsport +52.328s
23 Edgar Pierre Evans GP +1m00.065s
24 Zhongwei Wang R&B Racing +1m00.748s
25 Finley Green Pinnacle Motorsport +1m03.061s
26 Bruno del Pino MP Motorsport +1m05.402s
27 Noah Lisle Xcel Motorsport +2 laps
Ret Nikhil Bohra MP Motorsport
Ret Theophile Nael Sainteloc Racing
Fastest lap: Taponen, 1m57.535s

Championship standings
Taponen 220   2 Barnard 149   3 Camara 124   4 Martinius Stenshorne 100   5 Wharton 96   6 Boya 96   7 David 92   8 Ugochukwu 85   9 Inthraphuvasak 68   10 Nael 58