Petr Semerád wasn’t supposed to race the whole season with a Hyundai i30 N TCR for the Janík Motorsport team. But the results were too good not to continue for the rest of the season and fight for the title. Although he finished second after a nice battle with Bartosz Groszek, Janík Motorsport won the team standings and Semerád became the best junior driver in the field.
Regardless of the championship outcome, how do you rate your season in TCR Eastern Europe?
I rate the season positively. I don’t want to complain, but we had a limited budget, so there weren’t many testing sessions, there was a limited number of new tyres, and so on. But that was the challenge and everybody was trying to make the most of the minimum. And we succeeded.
You have probably experienced all possible situations – winning, fighting on the track, crashing, technical difficulties…
It’s true. We experienced all situations. For example, the car worked superbly at Poznań and we didn’t have any issues. On the other hand, we had problems at Red Bull Ring, where the car didn’t start and, later in the race, when I damaged the suspension upright. Also, the accident in the qualifying at Most was unnecessary and the car was no longer in perfect condition like it was before. We can only speculate if that is what influenced the engine blow out in the second race.
Your DNF in the last race of the season meant that Bartosz Groszek won the title and that you finished second in the standings. How did you feel immediately after the end of the race and how do you rate your second-place standing in the championship in hindsight?
I was very disappointed at the time, also with myself. I guess I should have done more and initiated some things that should have been done. So I was kind of angry with myself. On the other hand, I think even second place is a great success. Bartosz Groszek is a great driver on the European championship level. When I consider that I wasn’t supposed to race for the whole season and that I entered the first round with doubts, the results exceeded our expectations.
Why were you worried before the first race of the season?
I was originally called in as a replacement for Gábor Tim, who planned to race at Hungaroring. But he wasn’t able to work out a budget, so, thanks to Mr. Josef Křenek, I came in. But I was worried that I wouldn’t be competitive enough or fast enough. However, we did really well in Hungary and achieved some good results.
You weren’t supposed to start for the whole season. What was the turning point? When did you and the team decide to run a complete season?
Thanks to the results in Hungary, we entered the second round at Red Bull Ring. We showed our speed again, and we were even faster. I started from the first row and, although I had a bad start and then broke the suspension upright, I finished second in the second race after starting from the back row. That weekend in Austria was the turning point in our plans and we decided to continue for as long as a chance at the championship remained alive.
And you soon became the title contender…
Yes, I fought with Bartosz until the last race of the season. After Red Bull Ring, we had an even better car in Poznań and the speed of that car was unbelievable. I won and continued to stay on top until the last round at Most. I was even leading the championship after the first race there. Eventually, the title was decided by my retirement due to the engine and not to anything that had happened on the track. It’s a shame of course, but that’s motorsport.
Which moment in the season do you remember the most?
For sure, the first race at Most, where I started from the back because of an accident that occurred during qualifying. I had to finish the race in front of Bartosz or the chance for the championship would be really slim. So I went for it, but I made a lot of mistakes. When I got close to him, I made a small error, went out of the track, and had to catch up with him again. That happened three or four times. Then I finally passed him in the first chicane, but it was a controversial moment that included a contact. However, there were a lot of contacts made between all cars in the field throughout the season and the race stewards decided not to investigate the matter. I didn’t feel good about it, but it wasn’t done on purpose. So this was the most intense moment for me in the season – racing for the title in front of full grandstands, where I felt the energy.
Although you finished second in the championship, you have won the Junior standings. You have a lot ahead of you, but you aren’t hiding your rally ambitions. Do you think you will still find a way to circuit racing?
Yeah, it’s been a long time since I met Mr. Křenek at the Junior Star talent competition. It won’t be long before I can no longer be classified as a junior driver. Anyway, my ambitions are in rally for sure. That’s the place where I grew up and, for a couple of years, I gave it my all there. So rally is closer to my heart, but I like circuit racing and I enjoy it very much. It’s more a question of budget and time, so I wouldn’t really mind continuing there. I mean I would like to continue there.