A very interesting interview with a polish rising co-driver star, about his very interesting season in Poland, ERC, and Lithuania
Walk us through that time when your season plans started to develop and You saw that this year will be biggest in your career
– Actually, when I and Gracjan were on the first tests ever on asphalt in an R2 car I knew this season is gonna be quite special. But never expected a call from G.Grzyb asking me if I want to go straight with him from that test session to Pecz in Hungary, to compete in Fabia Rally2. First time ever on asphalt and first time ever on asphalt in Rally2 car. You can just imagine my face after the first few kilometers at tests before Orfu Rally. After some time I got another call from L.Lewandowski asking me if I want to do the whole ERC3 season with him and there is no more words needed to describe my feelings. 🙂
Tell us how Your season was with G.Predko in Poland?
– After a very good start of our rally journey last year in Lithuania where we gained a lot of experience competing with veeeeery fast local drivers we decided to switch to asphalt this year. Especially because we both needed experience on that surface. Polish rallies are one of the best in Europe in my opinion and if you wanna be a fast driver and you think about Europe – it’s a very good idea to come here. A good example is Kalle Rovanpera who was testing a lot on our best tarmac stages or even Dominykas Butvilas who also made a season or two in RSMP. So yea, our season was great here, we showed a good pace from the very beginning and we have won in Polish Debut Cup.
Tell us how Your season was with L.Lewandowski in ERC?
– We had ups and downs. It’s not like you can just hop into ERC and fight for the win. Every rally is new for you and they are very demanding – especially physically where your rally week starts usually from Tuesday and your sleep time is quite limited. Generally, Lukasz finished at 4th position, me – 5th in ERC3 so I think that’s a huge thing where your rivals are one of the best in the World. So you can just imagine how fast they are and we had many times a thought like the timekeepers are cheating on us because you are reaching a finish line after you gave everything on the stage and the time says you are 1-2sek/km slower than the winner. I’m very happy that I had an opportunity to compete on that level and also I met such a good friend who is Lukas.
You traveled across the whole of Europe this year. Where You wish to come back to do more rallying?
– Definetly Italy! We both with Lukas had so good rally here in Rome. You were just driving with the smile on your face on these curvy roads. We even talked about some season here just for fun. Maybe that’s not a stupid idea because it’s just a pleasure.
Which rally was most memorable for You this year?
– I think Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras in Portugal. It most challenging rally I’ve ever done in my life. Like all experience you ever gained before is not important here. The first day was a complete disaster with the road conditions and I have to admit I was quite worried driving through because you could crash driving literally with 30km/h in every place!
Your schedule was pretty intense this year. How do You deal with fatigue, both psychical and psychological?
– As I said before – ERC rallies are very demanding in the physical aspect so the main thing is to keep your body fit. Being a co-driver is not like only sitting and reading, you also have to spend some time in the gym. It will help you recover faster after rally weeks. After this season I just decided to work more through the wintertime to be in a good shape. If it is about the psychological aspect I listen to so much music to relax or to get into the proper mood. Music is with me all the time actually, even on a liaison road because we can connect into our intercom! 🙂
As a co-driver, You probably had a lot of other responsibilities apart from pacenotes reading. How You find yourself dealing with a lot of paperwork and other things in different countries?
– These times are hard due to pandemics. You have so much more to do with COVID-related things and that is the worst in this. Each country is different and you have to adapt fast and read regulations scrupulously to avoid any mistakes.
Peugeot 208 R2 and Opel Corsa Rally4 are the same class, but different in time perspective. Do notice some differences between those cars?
– There is a big gap between them. 208 R2 is great tool for young drivers to get used to professional cars. I had an occasion to drive them both after the wheel so I can say that 208 R2 was very nice in handling but Corsa Rally4 is definetly faster because of his turbo. Diffrence beetwen them is on the level of 1sek/km for the favour of Corsa.
You started the season in BMW M3 with K.Bubik. Did You miss a powerful RWD car later in the season?
– It’s not like I miss powerful RWD car but I missed a lot K.Bubik! This guy is a demon and he knows exactly what to do with the cars he is currently driving. That was a pleasure to drive with him at the start of the season and hope we can do more in the future! No difference for me if it will be in BMW M3, Rally4 or Rally2 car. This guy has definitely something to show.
Tell us the story behind You and Polish legend G.Grzyb. How did end up in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 car?
– As I told you above – I got unexpected call from professor Grzyb. But I have to admit that he promised me this few years ago when I was quite smaller and to be honest I really doubted that he will ever keep that words! The funny thing is that we know each other for like 15 years now when once he slept at my house during the Rally Warmiński. I was around 5 and I’ve never expected that I will co-drive him in future. 🙂
About relationships. Do You make some friends amongst competitors? Or maybe some kind of rivalry?
– ERC is like heaven. The atmosphere around competitors is very unique. I’ve never experienced such kindness! I made so many good friendships this year with such great guys. But I have to say that I’m still waiting for a fight in RBR(Richard Burns rally) with Mr.Pajari…
What were the main three things You learned this year?
– I learned that each country is different and as I mentioned you have to adapt very fast to their habits or some specific things. I think I also mastered google maps and I am also much braver in relations.
I believe You have some interesting/funny stories to tell from this year. Tell us one.
– Once upon a time in Rome… where we had a ceremony start and also night stage here I forgot that we came here by our recce car and Corsa came here on the trailer. So there is nothing strange in this but the liaison road from Rome to Fiugii was leading by the highway where you have to pay the toll. And when we changed into the racing suits at the street under the Castel Sant’Angelo I forgot to take some euros from my regular shorts… and after the night stage, I realized that we don’t have any money with us. So after us was Norbert Maior with her sister Francesca. I found her instantly on Messenger and just wrote to her “you have some spare euros?”. She replied, “if you have some water in exchange”. Then we got stuck in a big traffic jam, so she jumped out of the car to give us her last 5euro. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any water… But in the end, she was so kind and we passed by the gates.
What about next year? Any plans already?
– Yes, I got some first propositions but I don’t know what to do. Would be nice to do ERC once again, but Polish Championship is also interesting. But there is a big chance that I will be back in LARC too! 🙂
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Pictures – Jan Šmerda, Piotr Puchalski, Pawel Szotek, Jakub Syty, Rafal Roguski, Maciej Niechwiadowicz, Marcin Snopkowski, Lukasz Lewandowski, Pasha Zhukovic