The end of the year is a time of summaries. This time we will look at Polish motorsport champions who achieved great successes in 2023. There will be no shortage of veterans like Robert Kubica or rising stars such as Kacper Sztuka, who is considered the 39-year-old’s successor.
Although motorsport is not as popular a discipline in Poland as, for example, football or volleyball, it has a very large group of loyal fans, as well as amateur players. Without a doubt, the most famous are speedway, Formula 1 and car rallies. The viewership of motor sports in our country is related to the successes of Polish competitors. And recently we have something to be proud of.
Robert Kubica’s World Championship with ORLEN Team WRT in WEC LMP2 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans race
The ambassador of motorsport in Poland is undoubtedly Robert Kubica. While he was achieving success in Formula 1 for BMW Sauber and Renault, many of his compatriots were cheering him on in front of their TV sets. Unfortunately, the accident interrupted his further career in F1. What’s worse, at the time of the incident, he was already bound by a preliminary contract with the Scuderia Ferrari team. Despite this, he did not leave his passion for motor sports and returned to racing. First, from 2020 to 2022, he was a reserve and development driver for Alfa Romeo Racing ORlEN. Meanwhile, in 2021, the driver joined the Belgian ORLEN Team WRT, where he raced in the European Le Mans Series.
In 2023, Robert Kubica together with Louis Deletraz and Rui Andrade from ORLEN Team WRT sealed the championship title in the LMP2 class (“LE MANS” PROTOTYPE 2). The team won the 8-hour race at the Bahrain track. This triumph was the first for a Polish driver. Previously, our representative’s greatest success in endurance was the triumph in the European Le Mans Series (2021).
Robert Kubica also took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is the oldest long-distance race in the world, dating back to 1923. Drivers compete on the Circuit de la Sarthe, the loop of which is 13,626 meters long. The 38-year-old took second place in this clash. It is worth noting that the Polish Inter Europol Competition team with Jakub Śmiechowski won the LMP2 class.
Bartosz Zmarzlik’s fourth World Championship
Bartosz Zmarzlik also dotted the “i” in 2023. The speedway rider proved for the second time in a row and for the fourth time in his career that he is the best in the world. The Pole triumphed in the last, tenth round of the Grand Prix series in Toruń. Second place in the final went to Swede Fredrik Lindgren, and third to Dane Leon Madsen. Patryk Dudek was fourth. The Platinum Motor Lublin competitor managed to maintain the advantage he had gained over the Swede, although it was close that the competitor would lose the chance to win due to his own mistake.
In the qualifications for this year’s penultimate Grand Prix tournament in Vojens, Denmark, Bartosz Zmarzlik wore the wrong Kevlar, which resulted in him being disqualified. “A few dozen minutes before the start of training, I took part in marketing campaigns, which ended shortly before qualifying. Returning to the bus, I instinctively took Kevlar, which turned out to be the wrong one. Despite my mistake, I was allowed to train by the competition referee,” the speedway rider explained. In the end, luck was on the Polish speedway rider’s side and he managed to win the world championship once again.
Poland’s victory in the Speedway Team World Cup
Before winning the Speedway Grand Prix on September 30, Bartosz Zmarzlik could also enjoy winning the Team World Cup at the end of July. These competitions replaced the Speedway of Nations. This year’s victory of the White and Reds consisting of Bartosz Zmarzlik – captain, Patryk Dudek, Maciej Janowski, Dominik Kubera, Janusz Kołodziej was not so certain. In the first series of starts, they did not win any, which may have surprised many fans of this sport. Fortunately, from race to race it was getting better. Thanks to the victories of Patryk Dudek in the fifth start and Bartosz Zmarzlik in the next one, our representatives advanced to second place, losing only a point to the British.
Soon the Poles made up for the losses, which made the last start incredibly exciting. It can be said that Maciej Janowski ran his best race in his career, after which the White and Reds could enjoy another, ninth victory in history in the final of the Team World Cup. Our speedway riders were the best in 2005, 2007, 2009-11, 2013 and 2016-2017. For Patryk Dudek it was the fourth triumph in his career, and for Bartosz Zmarzlik the third.
The successes of Bartosz Zmarzlik and Mateusz Cierniak
Bartosz Zmarzlik himself was already famous before the Speedway season. The 28-year-old surprised many people by leaving Stal Gorzów, which he represented for 12 years. The speedway rider decided to change club colors and join Platinum Motor Lublin. It was a brilliant move by the team and the player himself, because in the first season they won the Polish team championship. In November, the world champion decided to extend his contract for another two years. His partners will be runner-up world champion Fredrik Lindgren, Australian Jack Holder, who was fourth, and Dominik Kubera – world team champion.
The second promising motorsport competitor is Mateusz Cierniak. He is a 21-year-old Polish speedway player, playing in the top league Motor Lublin, and the son of Mirosław Cierniak, who practiced the same sport. In 2023, Cierniak was the first Pole in history to defend the individual speedway junior world championship. The beginning of the competition on the Danish track in Vojens began quite unexpectedly, because in the third race the 21-year-old was the last to cross the finish line. Fortunately, later it only got better.
Three Poles qualified in the semi-finals and in this race Cierniak could have secured his second consecutive World Championship title, but… he crashed into the tape and was disqualified. This failure meant that another Pole – Bartłomiej Kowalski – had a chance for gold, but he wasted this chance by not advancing to the final. In turn, thanks to Damian Ratajczak’s triumph in the final, he took silver, and Cierniak could enjoy his victory. This success can be double, because for the third time in history, three Poles stood on the podium. Bartłomiej Kowalski was on the lowest step.
Moreover, Mateusz Cierniak crowned the end of his junior age by becoming the best junior of the PGE Ekstraliga season for the second time in a row. Thanks to his great performances, he was called up to the national team for the 2024 season.
Kacper Art’s World Championship in Italian Formula 4
When mentioning motorsport champions, it is impossible not to mention the rising star of motor racing – Kacper Sztuka. The 17-year-old is a great talent and they are already calling him the new Robert Kubica. This year, the Pole played in the Italian edition of the F4 Championship with the US Racing team. Even though at the halfway point of the competition he was sixth in the general classification and had more than twice fewer points than the leader, he was able to catch up, winning six races in a row and before the last weekend of the world championship, he was one and a half points ahead.
Even before the last race of the season, Kacper Sztuka achieved his goal and won the title of Italian champion in Formula 4. Thanks to this, the 17-year-old could drive in the last competition without much stress. Unfortunately, it was not without stress, because the rival PREMA team noticed that the Pole’s restart of the competition was wrong and filed a protest. The judges considered this case positively, but fortunately the penalty was five seconds, which did not affect the final results, because he crossed the finish line 5.3 seconds ahead of Tuukka Taponen. Junior ORLEN Team was the second White and Red Team in history to win the single-seater series. The first one was none other than the previously mentioned Robert Kubica, who did it in 2005.
The year 2023 may prove to be a breakthrough for Kacper Sztuki. This achievement in F4 has not gone unnoticed by F1’s top clubs. Ultimately, the 17-year-old received a huge distinction and joined the Red Bull Junior Driver Program – the official development program for young drivers, which belongs to the current Formula 1 World Champions. In short, this means that he was among the most talented drivers in the world.
World Championship of Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Maciej Szczepaniak in WRC2 Challenger
The second veteran who achieved great success in 2023 is Kajetan Kajetanowicz. The WRC rally driver, together with Maciej Szczepaniak, won the world championship in the WRC2 Challenger. The Polish duo had to show a lot of patience, they had to wait until the end for their triumph. Ultimately, the crew secured the title in the last special stage of the final round of the Japan Rally.
For the popular “Kajto” it was the fifth consecutive World Championship medal, but the first in gold. The Polish crew showed class, because the entire race took place in very difficult weather conditions. The route was hit by heavy rains, which forced the organizers to cancel one of the special stages.
Miko Marczyk’s victory in the Barbórka Rally
It is also worth appreciating Miko Marczyk’s performances this year. In the 2019 season, the driver of the SKODA Polska Motorsport team became the youngest Polish Rally Champion in history. A year earlier, he finished his debut season in second place, one point behind Grzegorz Grzyb. The 28-year-old will receive a scholarship from the PFNteam100 program for talented athletes from 2022. Its pilot is Szymon Gospodarczyk.
In 2023, the crew won the 61st Barbórka Rally, crowning the rally season in Poland. The duo repeated their success from 2022 and won the famous Aces Criterion for the first time at ul. Karowa. In the years 2018 – 2022, the team was in second place.
The triumphs of Bartosz Marszałek
To sum up this year, it is impossible not to mention Bartłomiej Marszałek, who won the first Grand Prix race in Indonesia – the motorboat world championship. In the qualifications for these competitions, the Pole took pole position, after an exciting fight with Shaun Torrent, who is the current world champion. Ultimately, the winner was a 40-year-old from Warsaw. The judges helped him a bit, because after a thorough review, the judges decided to cancel the American’s best time.
In the race itself, the Marshal took advantage of his position at the start and very quickly took the lead, which he maintained until the 14th lap. Unfortunately, later Torrente remembered himself and managed to overtake him. Next time, the judges helped the Pole because they decided that the world champion had made a mistake during the attack, which resulted in a one-lap penalty. Thanks to this, the American dropped to ninth place, and the Pole could enjoy his victory. For the 40-year-old, it was the first victory in his career in the World Powerboat Championships.