Joel put on a controlled performance to finish the Macau Grand Prix qualification race in second position, progressing from fourth on the grid to seal a slot on the front row for Sunday’s finale.
Joel slipstreamed past Sacha Fenestraz for third on the initial dash down to Mandarin, only for the Carlin driver to retake the position in the subsequent congestion at Lisboa.
The safety car was deployed on lap three after a stray dog (!) entered the track at Dona Maria, with Joel jumping at the opportunity to finally pass Fenestraz for good at the restart with a move at Lisboa.
One lap later, he then pounced at arch Macau nemesis Callum Ilott (who took Joel out of the lead in last year’s finale). Ilott, however, closed the door aggressively on the run to Lisboa, causing Joel to swipe the barriers before ultimately squeezing his way past the Briton for P2.
From there, it was a relatively static affair to the finish, with Joel eventually coming home 1.5 seconds behind winner Dan Ticktum and the same amount of time ahead of third-placed Ilott. Fenestraz held on for fourth with Jake Hughes, Ilott’s GP3 team-mate, rounding out the top five.
With Ticktum and Joel set to share the front row tomorrow, there will be two Motopark cars at the head of the field as the lights go out at 15.30 local time. For Joel, it means he will start the all-deciding finale from the very same spot as last year, as he bids to clinch the victory that so brutally eluded him 12 months ago.
Next session: Main Race, 15.30 local time tomorrow (Sunday)
QUOTE – JOEL
That was a perfect race for me. I wanted to finish inside the top three and I managed second, so I’m very pleased. They held the lights very long at the start and I think many of us nearly bogged down, but thankfully I got away well off the line. I got past Fenestraz on the first lap but then he got me back, although I finally made it past him after the restart. It was then very close with Callum; I went for the small gap and he nearly put me in the wall again, but thankfully I managed to squeeze by. From there, I was just saving the tyres for tomorrow. We’re in a good position, the pace is strong, the car is good – I’m feeling confident for the big one.
Results – Qualification Race