Home Featured Taponen takes two poles, title rival Barnard struggles in FRME qualifying

Taponen takes two poles, title rival Barnard struggles in FRME qualifying

by Ida Wood

Photo: FRMEC

Formula Regional Middle East points leader Tuukka Taponen masterly took two poles in the final qualifying sessions of the season at Dubai Autodrome.

Many of the usual frontrunners looked like they might be consigned to the bottom of the grid during Q1 as drivers left it late to lap at pace.

Evans GP duo Edgar Pierre and John Bennett were the only two to have set flying laps a third of the way through the 15-minute session, then a minute later Xcel Motorsport’s Yaroslav Veselaho lowered the pace to 2m01.891s.

Veselaho had been shuffled down to fourth place by the second half of the session as Sainteloc Racing’s Jose Garfias went to the top with with a 1m56.950s and Pinnacle Motorsport’s Giovanni Maschio and R&B Racing’s Zhongwei Wang also lapped sub-2m00s. At this point the two title contenders Taylor Barnard and Taponen were down in 11th and 18th, the latter 16.788 seconds off the pace.

A short while after MP Motorsport’s Bruno del Pino lowered the pace to 1m55.625s, then with five minutes to go Taponen jumped all the way up to first with a 1m55.071s lap that would not be beaten. His R-ace GP team-mate Zachary David went third fastest, ahead of Mari Boya, Nikhil Bohra, Costa Toparis, Kanato Le, Jesse Carrasquedo, Alexander Abkhazava and Garfias. Barnard was now in 18th, with Mumbai Falcons drivers Ugo Ugochukwu, Rafael Camara and James Wharton in 20th, 21st and 24th respectively.

With three-and-a-half minutes remaining, PHM Racing’s Brando Badoer leaped from 23rd to second but was 0.415s slower than Taponen. Ugochukwu snuck up to third, and Sainteloc’s Theophile Nael went from 25th to fourth ahead of Camara, del Pino, David and Wharton. Barnard was now 27th.

There was no challenge to Taponen before the chequered flag waved, although with one-and-a-half minutes to go David improved to fourth and Barnard somewhat saved his session by going 12th fastest but being 0.837s slower than his pole-winning rival.

Barnard did a better job in Q2, but the PHM driver was still beaten by his rival who took his fifth pole of 2024 by 0.109s.

Maschio was the pacesetter through the first half of the session, with team-mate Abkhazava lowering the pace to 1m55.852s in the final six minutes. He was only briefly on top as Bennett and then del Pino bettered him.

Del Pino’s 1m54.996s lap kept him on provisional pole for only 42s, as Taponen jumped from 24th to first with an unbeatable 1m54.723s. David went third fastest, while Barnard, Camara and Wharton were all outside of the top 25.

A minute later Badoer went from 21st to second by getting within 0.109s of Taponen’s pace, and Barnard improved to fourth. That became fifth when Nael found more pace in the final two minutes, and Barnard also got faster but could not take back the position.

Camara rose from 29th to 13th with 13s to go, then failed to complete his final lap.

Qualifying round-up
Q1 results
1 Tuukka Taponen R-ace GP 1m55.071s
2 Brando Badoer PHM Racing +0.415s
3 Ugo Ugochukwu Mumbai Falcons +0.445s
4 Zachary David R-ace GP +0.480s
5 Theophile Nael Sainteloc Racing +0.527s
6 Rafael Camara Mumbai Falcons +0.531s
7 Bruno del Pino MP Motorsport +0.554s
8 James Wharton Mumbai Falcons +0.599s
9 Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak PHM Racing +0.807s
10 Emmo Fittipaldi MP Motorsport +0.811s

Q2 results
1 Taponen 1m54.723s
2 Badoer +0.109s
3 Del Pino +0.273s
4 Nael +0.285s
5 Taylor Barnard PHM Racing +0.328s
6 David +0.467s
7 Inthraphuvasak +0.494s
8 Ugochukwu +0.531s
9 Wharton +0.560s
10 Costa Toparis Evans GP +0.583s