The 2024 season will be PHM AIX Racing’s second as a member of the Formula 2 grid. Yet for a team that is still fairly green in the Championship they have undergone plenty of changes as they return this year using a new name, livery, and driver line-up.

With Joshua Duerksen and Taylor Barnard behind the wheel of their cars, it means PHM are the only team on the grid that have a driver pairing that features two rookies.

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That means alongside the effort it takes adjusting and understanding the new 2024 F2 car, the German team also had to work hard getting their two drivers up to speed before the start of the year.

But despite all of those challenges after three intense days of pre-season running in Bahrain, the sounds coming out of the PHM camp were extremely positive.

“Promising to wrap it up in one word,” said Team Manager Robert Vavrik reflecting on the Sakhir pre-season testing. “We are slightly still a new company. We started the team from last year with a partnership with Charouz, now it is our own campaign together with our partners AIX.

Duerksen impressed PHM with his performances at the pre-season testing
Duerksen impressed PHM with his performances at the pre-season testing

“So, it is a new chapter for us which gives us opportunities but even these opportunities need to fit with each other and first of all needs running.”

A large part of why the test was “promising” was down to the performances of both drivers, as Duerksen and Barnard made a strong impression within the team.

To many, taking on two rookies in a year in which the car changes is risky, but PHM see taking this decision not just as a vote of confidence in their drivers but also in their setup. They believe that they have the right environment to help the young duo grow.

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“In F2, for sure we are the only team with two rookies in the field,” acknowledged Vavrik. “But we do that because we are completely convinced about them, and their quality and we are also convinced about us that we are able to bring them forward. Over the days they have done a very good job.”

Duerkson impressively completed 148 laps at testing which considering how limited running was on the opening day due to the torrential rain, is a very solid return.

He also caught the eye with his pace, as in the final session on Day 3 he set the 10th fastest time. Vavrik believes he has shown enough already in the post-season test at Yas Marina and in the Sakhir outing to now be considered a strong reference point for Barnard.

Barnards pace is said to have impressed PHM despite his limited running in an F2 car
Barnard's pace is said to have impressed PHM despite his limited running in an F2 car

But even without the pace, the main thing PHM took away from testing is the comfort both drivers felt within the team and the car. This gives them a strong foundation from which to build before the first round of the year at the same venue.

This is important because the pre-season running in Bahrain was Barnard’s first time driving F2 machinery, and while he is still getting up to speed, he could not have been happier with his three days of running.

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Barnard is said to have felt very fast within the car and while he did not finish in the top 10 in any session, the team felt the pace was clear to see and that there was still much more to come from him.

He now heads to Dubai for the final round of the Formula Regional Middle East Championship, which he will be doing with PHM as he looks to keep race sharp before the start of the F2 season.

The team trust in his talent and work ethic, it is why they felt comfortable promoting him from F3 after just one year. They believe he and Duerksen are capable of leading them to points finishes in 2024 – a feat that alluded them last season.

PHM are hopeful their new line-up will see them score points this year
PHM are hopeful their new line-up will see them score points this year

“From our team side, I am happy because the drivers feel very comfortable in our team, they are very convincing,” said Vavrik. “I think the paddock knows the quality of Taylor Barnard already, winning a race last year in F3.

“He has had maybe the lowest chance to adapt himself on this new environment and car by itself. Lots of drivers are repeaters here, it's a very strong field, the same as F3 so it will be very intense this year.

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“They have a lot of mileage, drivers with at least two or three seasons and some promising rookies in the field. Even our driver Joshua Duerksen has had a good preparation, as you have to do, and you see that in the results, he has a good understanding, he finished in the top 10.

“Taylor can use it as a reference which is very good, and he is a hard worker and very skilled, so we are honestly very encouraged with these two guys. We can develop ourselves to become potentially points competitors and that would be a big step for us.”