Polish karting star Maciej Gladysz is aiming to add the World Championship title to his two major karting crowns in the European scene over the last year.
By Jake Sanson
Last year, Maciej Gladysz followed in the footsteps of Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc by winning the coveted FIA Karting Academy Trophy title, ten years after the F1 star did so. In 2022, encouraging pace and race craft from Gladysz have demonstrated his ability to run in the top five of the category for the rest of the season, allowing for the opportunity to win the world championship at Sarno in September. In doing so, he’d become the first Polish junior driver ever to be crowned world champion.
“Since the start of the year, I’ve always been in the top ten which was my target,” Gladysz said, “I’m in a great team with a great atmosphere with amazing sponsors and strong support from the family. I think this is my best season yet.
“In the beginning, I was a little nervous just because I didn’t know how the feeling in the team was going to be like, but once I was in testing for the first day I knew everything would be great. It instantly felt good, and I was confident immediately.”
Following in the footsteps
Much of Gladysz’ prowess this year has been aided by his switch to the powerhouse satellite team Ricky Flynn Motorsport, which in recent years has honed the talents of many racing stars, most notably Lando Norris and Guanyu Zhou, along with Thomas Ten Brinke, Zane Maloney, Enaam Ahmed, and Finn Kenneally. Maciej joined the squad at the beginning of 2022 – a team that has seen incredible success in the last decade with multiple European and World junior titles – with the partnership tie-in of the new Lando Norris chassis from the OTK Group boosting Gladysz’ confidence that he’s on the correct path to Formula 1.
“Joining Ricky Flynn and driving Lando’s kart, it’s like I’m driving with him now,” Gladysz confides. “It feels really great, and it makes me feel like I’m ready to move up the ladder. I follow Lando really closely now, and it’s nice to see how he’s doing in Formula One this year. It’s impossible not to keep up with it, because he cares about us in karting a lot. So I feel like I’m part of his racing family.”
After sealing the Champions of the Future Winter Cup title in his first major event with Ricky Flynn Motorsport back in February, the talented Polish racer has been making big progress in the OK Junior category. Following a tough qualifying session at Kristianstad last week, his charge through to the Champions of the Future final podium was only thwarted by a heavy rain shower midway through the final. The data collected and tyre management shown indicates that the second half of the European Championship should be very strong for young Gladysz, both at Kristianstad and Franciacorta.
Representing his flag
As a passionate Polish sports star, he has a huge interest in racing and Polish sport in general and follows the pursuit of Polish motorsport on the world stage very closely in the hope that he’ll be considered as one of the country’s top competitors in years to come.
“I love Robert Kubica! We all do in Poland, he’s our idol,” Gladysz proclaims. “But I love a lot of racing. I watch Speedway a lot, especially last year when the world championship was in Cardiff, and I watch a lot of the English karting championships. It’s probably the most entertaining country in the world for karting, there’s always so much action – I love watching on YouTube!
“I watch football and volleyball too, especially as Poland are a strong volleyball team – we were world champions four years ago!!”
Since Karol Basz won the FIA Karting World Championship in KF at La Conca in 2015, Maciej has emerged as the most successful young junior driver in the country’s history and became the first Polish junior to win a title at this level last season with his Academy Trophy crown in 2021.
“Winning in the Academy was so special,” he recalls. “When I arrived in Wackersdorf, I knew it would be exciting because I was driving with new faces, meeting new people and racing at new tracks. Every day was a new challenge. The engines were very equal in performance as were the drivers, so every weekend was really hard. After tenth place in Wackersdorf, Adria was very different because I won – it’s a circuit I really like. I was second at Kristianstad which was enough to be champion.
“I couldn’t believe it, it was so perfect. Winning meant a lot to me, because (Charles) Leclerc won it before me. It felt like I could be a Formula One driver, and now I readily believe it. It doesn’t hurt that Charles Leclerc is my favourite driver!! So now I have faith I can get to the top, just like he did.”
Heading into Kristianstad, the Orlen supported athlete is one to watch for the rest of 2022 as he has a strong chance of finishing the FIA Karting European Championship in the top five of the standings, and could be a serious contender for the world title under the foot of Mount Vesuvius in three months time.
“I love the circuits coming up, they suit me really well. There’s no doubt for me that this will be a strong end to the year.”
Header Photo Credit: Manuela Nicoletti
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