THOSE who watched the Adelaide 500 race weekend in early March were almost witnessing a new chapter in Australian motor sport history. ECB SuperUtes racer Tomas Gasperak, at just 15, became the second youngest driver to compete at a national Supercars-level event.
Tomas Gasperak, 15, plays Oztag footy like his Mansfield State High mates, but you’d reckon being Australia’s youngest motor racing sensation must earn heaps of cred. “Not really,” he said, a few days after his Adelaide 500 debut. “I went to school today and, I mean, my teachers know who I am, but there’s 2500 students and you’d be surprised how many just aren’t into motor racing.”
Gasperak, born on June 5, 2002, missed out on the record by just a handful of days: new Supercar sensation Alex Rullo (born June 15, 2000) had competed in the Dunlop development series two years earlier.
Being 15 means that Gasperak still has plenty of time to make history.
In Adelaide, he’d missed practice – “we were still putting the car together” – but stayed (mostly) out of trouble to come away from the weekend standing fifth (of 10) in the championship table.
How old are the other drivers? “I wouldn’t know,” Gasperak shrugs. “I haven’t asked, but they all look like men.”
His Holden Colorado, run by Charlie Schwerkolt’s Team 18 – which runs Lee Holdsworth (above left) in Supercars – was built by Stone Bros Racing for the new SuperUtes regs. That means a 255kW, turbo-diesel V6, sixspeed Tremec gearbox and Brembo brakes.
“I didn’t think the SuperUtes would drive very well, but they actually do,” Gasperak says. “They’ve got really good power down at the bottom end. It turns in pretty fast [but] it’s the rear that you’ve got to look out for. It likes to get a bit taily around the corners.”
It’s not the first proper racing car that Gasperak has driven: in 2017, he spent several months in North Carolina with Australianowned Team Roo, doing five races in a NASCAR development program. It was a stepping stone from a karting career that began at age nine.
“My dad’s been into cars his whole life – he’s a car dealer – but there was never any racing history. He was looking at how all the Formula 1 drivers had started in karting and we decided to have a go, just for fun. And we were reasonably good at it, so we kept on going.”
The day after his 14th birthday in 2016, Tomas won the Queensland state championship for the Rotax Junior Max Pro Tour class. It came at his Ipswich home track where, a year earlier, there’d already been a career turning point.
“When I was 13, at the Rotax Pro Tour Grand Final I qualified second out of 45 karts” – in the reverse-grid final, he bagged the fastest lap – “and that’s when I thought, yeah, I can do this.”
In 2016 he moved to the CIK series, becoming the youngest driver to be licensed for the hairy-scary ‘KZ’ karts; 125cc, six-speed machines capable of better than 160km/h.
“They’re really physical, really hard to drive and everything just happens really quickly.” His performances in KZ2, which included being the highest-placed Aussie in the 2016 Race of Stars meeting on the Gold Coast, prompted father and son to bite the bullet and contact Roo Motorsports.
“We went over to America for three months and we did five races in NASCAR,” he says. “We focused on one track, Hickory Motor Speedway, because it was a good track to learn on – it’s one of the shortest tracks and no two corners are the same. ”
With his career now well on track, does he have any role models?
“Probably Lee Holdsworth, because he’s the first V8 Supercar driver I ever met. Well, I didn’t exactly meet him, but he presented my brother [Gabriel] with a trophy at a go kart race in 2014.”
Now that they’re effectively team mates, the plan is to loiter at test days and badger a drive in the Preston Hire Commodore Supercar, right?
“I’ve never actually thought of it that way. I’m going to keep that in mind.”