John Bennett has launched his 2024 race season with an impressive battling display on his Formula Regional Middle East Championship debut in Abu Dhabi this past weekend (13-14 January).
The Salisbury-based rising star is kicking off his third year in single-seater competition with an exciting first ever race campaign outside of the UK, with his entry into the Middle East series pitting him against a hugely-competitive grid of fellow talented young drivers.
Heading to the world-famous Yas Marina Circuit, the home of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for the first time, three days of testing in the lead-up to the race weekend gave him the chance to get up to speed with the new track, his new car and a new team in Evans Grand Prix.
Tackling the venue’s 2.43-mile ‘Corkscrew’ track configuration, Bennett’s weekend unfortunately started on a tough note as some car gremlins in qualifying hampered his potential lap times and left him 17th on the grid for the opening race on Saturday afternoon.
The 20-year-old racer enjoyed a brilliant start to proceedings and shot up to 13th place by the end of the opening lap. Settling into a closely-contested pack of cars on the fringes of the top ten, he bided his time before pulling off a slick move into the sweeping first corner to grab 12th.
After holding that position to the chequered flag to complete a brilliant debut race in the championship, unfortunately his hopes of enjoying similar charges forward in Sunday’s two races were hit with a recurrence of the issues that he’d dealt with in qualifying.
Bennett didn’t let it faze him though and showed his tremendous fighting spirit with a couple of spirited defensive performances. Keeping out of trouble during a couple of action-packed encounters, he came away with 13th and 19th place results, ensuring he scored a pair of Rookie Cup points finishes across his first weekend.
John Bennett: “It’s been a fantastic experience racing in the Middle East for the first time. There was lots to learn over the week getting used to a new car, team and circuit, but I feel there was promising pace from the off and it’s a shame we weren’t able to fully show that over the race weekend.
“The opening race showed that when everything clicked, we had a very strong package and I could put in a real attacking drive. Sadly we were on the back foot on Sunday, but managed to fight to a couple of decent finishes. There’s plenty of positives to take into the next rounds this coming weekend.”
Bennett, who races with the support of J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd, The Accounting Centre Ltd, Khan Thornton Ltd, Lonetree Limited, Lewco Holdings Limited and Project Divebomb, will be in action again this weekend (19-21 January) with another outing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.