Formula Regional Middle East Championship Makes Dazzling Dubai Debut

Published on Sunday, January 15, 2023

Formula Regional Middle East Championship Makes Dazzling Dubai Debut

Dubai, January 14, 2023: The inaugural round of the new Formula Regional Middle East Championship Certified by FIA (FRMEC) was certainly dramatic and unpredictable. When the dust settled at the Dubai Autodrome from three sensational races from the high-quality, international 27-driver field, a trio of young talents were celebrating victories – yet none of them are in the leading three positions in the championship.

The first winner was Ferrari Driver Academy prospect Dino Beganovic. The 18-year-old Swede, driving for the Mumbai Falcons, came out on top of a feisty battle with Gabriele Minì, the driver he beat to last year’s Formula Regional European title. Minì was defending the lead with all his might before he slowed on the final lap and dropped to sixth, while a further penalty dropped him outside the points. That promoted Peruvian Matías Zagazeta to second place in his R-ace GP car, with PHM Racing’s British talent Taylor Barnard putting in a remarkable charge from 27th on the grid to finish third, and claim the Rookie Cup spoils.

Nikhil Bohra took advantage of the reversed-grid pole position for race two. R-ace GP’s 17-year-old Singaporean did not put a wheel wrong in leading all the way from fellow Formula Regional rookie Aiden Neate (Prema Racing). Once again Barnard was on the move, this time rising from eighth to third.

After 12th and 13th positions in the opening two races, the finale was all about Spanish talent Mari Boya. The 18-year-old qualified his Hyderabad Blackbirds by MP Motorsport car in second place, and got ahead of poleman Andrea Kimi Antonelli on the opening lap. Boya left the Mumbai Falcons car of Rookie Cup winner Antonelli behind to take a clear victory, with Pinnacle VAR’s Thai racer Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak in third.

With fourth and sixth positions to add to his second in the finale, Italian Antonelli has moved into an early championship lead. Antonelli, who is supported by the Mercedes Formula 1 team, is six points ahead of his Mumbai Falcons team-mate, Ferrari’s Brazilian protégé Rafael Câmara, with Barnard a further two points behind. Clearly, this intense battle is yet to take shape before the second round at Kuwait Motor Town.


 

Driver Quotes

Race 1 winner: Dino Beganovic / Mumbai Falcons
“[The penultimate lap] was crazy! It was very intense. We have been battling since karting, me and Gabriele (Minì), and it’s great to continue that. It was fair, and I think we put up a great show for the fans. I’m very happy with the win from P4 – we did the right strategy for the whole weekend, so I’m very happy with it.”

Race 2 winner: Nikhil Bohra / R-Ace GP
“Yesterday we finished P11 on track and were just about to make the reverse grid, but then we didn’t. But then we got promoted because of the penalty and hadn’t expected to be on pole. I knew Aiden [Neate] was within one second of me the whole race, and was pressuring me from start to finish, but we held on. I’m speechless, honestly. Our first win in a big FIA championship; it breaks that mental barrier, and hopefully there are more wins to come.”

Race 3 winner: Mari Boya / Hyderabad Blackbirds by MP Motorsport
“I’m really happy. It’s been a long time since my last victory. I passed through a bad moment in my career, but thanks to the team and the support they give me, we’ve been working really hard. I knew this week we had the potential and now we’ve shown it; that the car was really good and we could win this race. I’m super happy for them and also for me.”

 

Race 1
The gripping debut race of the new championship looked to be going the way of dominant pole position man Gabriele Minì, only for Dino Beganovic to steal in and snatch the honours on the final lap. The duo were rivals throughout 2022, and it was Italian ace Minì who topped qualifying in his Hitech Grand Prix car by a healthy 0.423 seconds, with Beganovic fourth.

Beganovic pulled off a brave move on Matías Zagazeta on the opening lap of by going around the outside of the Turn 10 right-hander to grab third place, and set off after second-placed Andrea Kimi Antonelli. Antonelli had made a stunning FRegional debut to qualify second, but couldn’t prevent Beganovic diving down his inside into Turn 1 on the third lap. Two laps later, Antonelli lost further places to Zagazeta and Rafael Câmara.

On the sixth lap there was a brief safety car when Levente Révész came to a halt just off the circuit, and at the restart Minì appeared to have little trouble holding off Beganovic. Two laps later, the fight for eighth came to a conclusion when Sami Meguetounif and Nikita Bedrin collided on the run to Turn 1 – Meguetounif bounced into barriers, clipping the rear end of Josh Dufek in the process, while Bedrin was also out with damage.

The clear-up under safety car left time for three more laps of racing. Beganovic swarmed all over Minì and the duo spent much of the penultimate lap side by side. Minì was narrowly ahead as they began the final lap, but then slowed in the first sector, dropping down the order. Beganovic finished 1.140 seconds clear of the R-Ace GP car of Zagazeta, while third place was a remarkable result for Taylor Barnard. He was demoted to start 27th and last on the grid for races one and three because his car was illegally refueled in between the two qualifying sessions. But Barnard stormed up the order and gained four places over the final three laps, to add to the 20 he’d made up before then.

Antonelli claimed fourth, with Câmara fifth and Minì dropping to sixth. But Minì was later given a five-place penalty for forcing Beganovic outside track limits as they duelled for the lead, dropping him to 11th. PHM Racing’s Swiss racer Dufek survived his incident with Meguetounif to be classified sixth, with Sebastian Øgaard, Lorenzo Fluxá, Aiden Neate and Nikhil Bohra completing the top 10. Barnard also claimed honours in the Rookie Cup from fellow F4 graduates Antonelli and Câmara.

 

Race 2
Nikhil Bohra lined up on pole position for race two, for which the top 10 finishers in the first race started in reverse order. Bohra sprinted his R-Ace GP car away from pole position and held off front-row partner Aiden Neate for the duration, both drivers putting in a superb performance on their debut weekend in Formula Regional. Prema Racing’s British driver Neate got the gap down to below half a second in the closing stages, but Bohra held firm to win by 0.744 seconds.

After making up 24 places in race one, Taylor Barnard started this race from eighth and was already up to fifth by the end of lap one. He then grabbed fourth from Danish contender Sebastian Øgaard (Hyderabad Blackbirds by MP Motorsport) into Turn 10 on lap two, before setting off after the Mumbai Falcons car of Lorenzo Fluxá. Barnard shadowed the Spaniard for some time before claiming the final podium position on lap 11 of 16, and completing an all-rookie 1-2-3.

Fluxá held on for fourth ahead of his squabbling Mumbai Falcons Racing team-mates, from whom Rafael Câmara pipped Andrea Kimi Antonelli to fifth in a hectic battle. Francesco Braschi also came through strongly, the Italian demoting Øgaard for seventh with a few laps remaining. Pinnacle VAR pairing Pepe Martí and Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak were ninth and 10th.

There was drama for first-race winner Dino Beganovic and Gabriele Minì. They couldn’t get out of the midfield battling in the early stages, and contact between the pair at Turn 15 on lap four put Beganovic out of the race and consigned Minì to a distant 17th position - converted to 21st by a 10-second penalty.

 

Race 3
Andrea Kimi Antonelli topped the second qualifying session to take pole position for the weekend’s final race, but he could do little about Mari Boya in the race. Boya found his way through on the opening lap, and immediately began to pull out a margin at the front. By the 10th lap of 16 he had extended this to over three seconds, before Antonelli erased it a little by the finish – 1.631 seconds separated them at the chequered flag.

Rafael Câmara jumped ahead of third qualifier Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak at the start, but the Thai wasted little time moving back ahead of the Brazilian. As with the leading pair, this duo’s possession of third and fourth was solid to the end of the race. Antonelli, meanwhile, took Rookie Cup honours from Câmara and Inthraphuvasak.

After their battles over the weekend, much anticipation surrounded Gabriele Minì and Dino Beganovic lining up together on the third row. Beganovic got ahead on the opening lap for fifth, but he soon began to struggle for pace. First Minì got ahead to finish fifth, then Spaniard Pepe Martí, PHM Racing’s Nikita Bedrin and Hitech GP’s American Jak Crawford all moved in front for sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Beganovic spent the rest of the race keeping Nikhil Bohra at bay for ninth.

While the race ran under green-flag conditions all the way, there were incidents on the first lap that removed Matías Zagazeta, Taylor Barnard and Sami Meguetounif from the action.

 

2023 Formula Regional Middle East Championship certified by FIA
Provisional Calendar

Date

Venue

Event

January 9-10

Dubai Autodrome, UAE

Pre-Season Test

January 13-14

Dubai Autodrome, UAE

Round 1 (Races 1-3)

January 27-28

Kuwait Motor Town, Kuwait

Round 2 (Races 4-6)

January 31-February 1

Kuwait Motor Town, Kuwait

Round 3 (Races 7-9)

February 11-12

Dubai Autodrome, UAE

Round 4 (Races 10-12)

February 18-19

Yas Marina Circuit, UAE

Round 5 (Races 13-15)

 

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