Italian Giacomo Ghermandi returned to TCR Eastern Europe in the 2023 season after a one-year break and was surprised by the increased level of competition. But he fought like hell behind the wheel of his Audi RS3 LMS and attacked the podium finishes in the second half of the season.
What were your goals before the season, and did they change during the year?
To be honest, before the start of the season, our goals were very ambitious, based on the level of competitiveness of the championship in previous years and the results of our pre-season tests. The cold shower came at Oschersleben, where we found a very competitive starting field and had a lot of trouble finding the right setup for the car. We came back from Germany with zero points and… broken bones. That was the worst moment of the season. We realized that we were in an extremely competitive championship with a car that was still to be discovered!
You waited for a podium finish until the event at Most in difficult wet conditions. How big of a relief was it for you?
From the Red Bull Ring onwards, we regained speed, but we didn’t manage to get on the podium. At Most, it was really a liberation: a difficult qualifying, and especially at the home track for all the Czech drivers, something like my friend Petr Čížek coming to TCR Italy and finishing on the podium at Imola… Anyway, to get that result in the wet was beautiful, the result the whole team deserved for all their hard work!
But you were really close to winning at the Slovakia Ring, where you crossed the finish line in first place but received a penalty. How did you cope with the announcement of the penalty?
At the Slovakia Ring, I won the second race. It was perhaps the greatest joy of my motorsport life and the biggest disappointment. The jump start was due to a movement of the car on the grid which gave me no advantage, as I had even lost two positions in turn 1. But the car was perfect, my coach’s advice too, and I had the pace to stay in front for the whole race. Maťo said he didn’t pass me because he knew about my penalty. I say who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t known, after all, I have a reputation as an aggressive driver, passing me is never easy! But because of a communication problem, I only found out about the penalty in the parc ferme and it was really horrible, I remember crying out of frustration.
You were gaining speed in every other race. Did it mean that you were becoming more comfortable with the Audi?
The whole package has improved race after race: the car, the team, and I think also my driving skills. First Belicchi and then Oriola as coach driver gave me a lot, and I’m sure I grew a lot during the season, especially in terms of consistency and mentality: we finished all 12 races without ever retiring due to accidents, in the past, I wouldn’t have done that.
The car was taken care of by Lema Racing Team. How was the cooperation with the team?
The partnership between Lema Racing and Scuderia Ghermandi started three years ago, and we have grown so much together. Mirco is like a father to me, and despite my bad temper, the guys put up with me, and we love each other. Manuel, Matteo, and Jaka have been extraordinary this season!
You seem quite emotional, as we saw your joy at Most. Are you also emotional behind the wheel?
Hey, don’t forget I’m Italian, of course, I’m emotional! That’s my strength at work, I put energy and passion into everything I do. On the track, it’s different though because managing the pressure and staying calm in every situation has been my biggest challenge. I have been working with Formula Medicine and my coach for a long time to improve mental toughness.
What moment from the season do you remember the most?
It would be natural to say Slovakia Ring or Most, but actually, the race that gave me the most satisfaction was the second race at Brno. It was hot, and the Audi was struggling on that track, but we finished the race keeping Homola, Groszek, and Bucsi behind us – the 2022 and ’23 champions and a future champion… That result allowed us to take sixth place overall, first behind the two super teams Janik and Mertel: we couldn’t do better than that!
Can you tell us about your plans for the next season?
For now, I am working on myself. I want to go to the first race in better shape than this year, where every race I was carrying at least 20 kg more ballast than my rivals! As for the rest, TCR Eastern Europe is among the candidates for next season. A lot will depend on the level of the championship.