Douglas Motorsport returned to the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the fourth meeting of the 2021 BRDC British F3 Championship last weekend (23-25 July) and propelled rookie Reema Juffali into contention for a podium finish that just got away.
The team last raced in British F3 at the beautiful Ardennes circuit back in 2019 – having won at the same venue on their debut season in the championship back in 2016 – and entered off the back of a handful of exciting performances from Saudi Arabian racer Juffali.
The former British F4 driver took to the circuit for the first time on Friday afternoon for a trio of free practice sessions to learn the ropes, before jumping straight into a qualifying session late in the afternoon prior to a double helping of racing on Saturday.
Juffali ran inside the top 10 comfortably very early on before the pace grew at the sharp end in the second half of the 25-minute session, improving her pace throughout the day to beat series regular, Max Marzorati.
Typical Spa-Francorchamps weather then played its part the following day, making the opening race of the weekend a damp but drying affair with all cars opting for wet tyres. Juffali represented the Douglas charge and recovered ground early on to finish 15th by the flag in a tough contest, but knowledge gained was demonstrated in a scintillating second outing.
In drier conditions, Juffali evaded the first corner skirmishes ahead of her to climb several places, before easing her way past Donington Park race-winner Mikkel Grundtvig with a decisive move at Les Combes. Her charge continued, pulling clear once up to her final finishing position of 12th.
A reverse grid greeted drivers for the final race of the weekend at the slipstream-friendly Spa circuit, putting Juffali on the front row of the grid looking to improve on her best finish of fourth.
A superb launch when the lights went out propelled her into the early lead of the race, only falling to second as a result of giving away the slipstream to Grundtvig heading down the long Kemmel Straight for the first time.
The pace settled in however and the Douglas team could dream of gifting Juffali a maiden podium finish as she fended off her nearest rivals, but a lunge from behind at the Campus corner exit late on sent her into the tyre barriers to deny her a personal best finish of the season.
“It’s always exciting getting to come back to this brilliant circuit. It’s a real test for teams and we’ve improved all weekend, and we’re very impressed by how well Reema adapted and learned throughout to be in contention for a podium at the end. We now look to Snetterton where we know we are quick, so we’ll get our heads down and focus for that.”
“It’s such an amazing experience to race around this beautiful circuit. It’s been a lot of learning on my part to get used to such a quick circuit and working on slipstreaming. It’s obviously disappointing to end the weekend in the gravel after we were up there fighting for a podium. I’m gaining confidence and now I’m focused on getting a good result at Snetterton.”
The Douglas Motorsport squad now return to the UK and head to Norwich and the Snetterton 300 circuit in two weeks’ time (7/8 August), a track at which the team tasted victory last season.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.