October 14, 2023

Gruber is GT World Champ with master class Down Under

Toni Gruber is the new IFMAR 1:8 GT World Champion, the Hong Nor driver taking his first World title with an absolutely dominant and perfectly executed drive in Sydney, Australia.   Disappointed at missing out on the TQ in qualifying but managing to book his direct starting position in the final by winning Super Pole, the German driver led the 1-hour final from start to finish after getting the holeshot on Top Qualifier Alex D’angelo.  It was to be a difficult race for the Genius Racing driver, his race hampered by flame outs resulting in 6th place at the finish.  A lap up on the entire field after 20-minutes, Gruber extended that to 2 laps by 40-minutes, with the attention on the battle for second between home hero Jeff Hamon and his young Serpent team-mate Andrea Catanzani who put in a sensation drive in the Semi final to go from last to winning it.  A driver to call time, his 2-speed needing adjustment, Hamon had to start the race from the No.11 box on the grid as a result but worked his way through to second with World’s rookie Catanzani marking his arrival to the world by completing the podium.  For out going champion Joern Neumann it wasn’t to be a good race, the Sworkz driver suffered a number flame outs during his refuelling stops and after an off 17-minutes in some slow marshalling saw his engine stop costing the German a lap.  In the end he would finish 8th 12-laps down on Gruber.

Admitting himself he was ‘still in the zone’ and that enormity of his win would ‘take time for sure’ to set in, Gruber explained, ‘in the 20-minute practice (for the TQ and Super Pole drivers ahead of the Semi finals) I was on used tyres and Alex was on new so I saw then we had good pace for the final.  I don’t know if it was luck or I had a faster reaction than Alex but I got the lead at the start’.  With cloud cover arriving at the John Grant International Raceway just ahead of the final, he continued, ‘The weather helped out with the cooler temperature and with this I knew we would be safe with the tyres.  Towards the end I was on the back straight and Jeff was on the front straight so I could see the gap each lap so I just focused on driving with no mistakes to the end as I had 2-laps on him.’  With his engine tuner & former 1:10 Nitro World Champion Daniele Ielasi struggling to keep the emotion of his driver closing in on the World title, Gruber was also feeling the nerves, ‘I was more nervous in the last 3-minutes than I was at the start.  I was just hoping nothing would go wrong with the car.  It was a clean race and nothing happened. You need this luck, no issues, just drive’.

Asked about his race to second position and his call for the 10-minutes during the warm-up , Hamon said, ‘I needed to adjust the gearbox but it worked out alright because starting at the back I missed the first lap carnage’.  Having suffered a flame out on all his fuel stops in the Semi Final, he said it was all good in the final ‘thanks to Zac Ryan’.  He continued, ‘I did my own thing really in the race. It was awesome racing and it was a lot of fun especially when (Race Announcer) Leonard called me a shark.  I am super pumped for the whole team’.  Asked about tyre wear having had greater wear than Neumann in the Semi, he replied, ‘my car was awesome on tyres.  I saw Joern do a change (in the final).  He was like the test dummy and helped me decide I wasn’t going to change.’   He concluded, ‘Congrats to Toni.  Clinical is the only word to describe his win.  It’s extremely well deserved’.

Catanzani described his race as ‘difficult’, adding ‘I think I had a bad set of tyres’.  He continued, ‘In the Semi the car was really fast and now it was super difficult to drive when you push.  I was only able to do a 18.0 (second lap) and before I could do a 17.5 (seconds).’  He added, ‘we planned to change the front tyres but the rear was so loose the fronts were not doing as much work’.  The 18-year-old, who like the rest of the podium finishers will travel to Japan later this month for the 1:8 Onroad World Championship concluded, ‘For was my first Worlds I finish on the podium so I am happy’.

The only other driver to manage a 17-second lap in the final along with Gruber and Hamon, D’angelo said, ‘I am happy for my first experience.  I did the maximum I could and I want to thank the guys who crewed me but I missed having my father in the pits.  I am 17,000 kilometres from home and doing it all on my own.  I did not have my father talking to me during the race and help me to decide strategy.  It was a great result anyway but I hope for a better position the next time.  Congrats to Toni and to everyone for a clean race and nice battles’.


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