When it comes to young and talented, but also unlucky riders, one of the main examples from the last few years is Thomas Gradinger.
Gradinger was German IDM Supersport Champion in 2017 and then he had two troubled seasons in FIM Supersport World Championship, which were affected by several types of issues. Moreover, he was supposed to race again in WorldSSP in 2020, but he lost his seat due to Kiefer Racing lacking funds. In the end he came back to IDM Supersport, where he is still racing, and one more thing to remark is that the 26-year-old Austrian also suffered a number of serious injuries, from which he fortunately recovered. This year, Gradinger is providing together with a small team named Eder Racing one of the best stories in this season, as he is scoring remarkable results in IDM and, in particular, he finished the WorldSSP round in Most with a sixth place in tricky Race 2 (with changeable weather and Tarran Mackenzie’s maiden victory).
Palmen in Motorradsport had the chance to chat with Thomas Gradinger and discuss with him the current season and also a bit of past and future of a strong, but often unfortunate rider.
Thomas, in Most you finished Race 2 of World Supersport in sixth place, with a small team who had never competed there before. How was the race?
It was a very difficult race in a very difficult weekend. We came here with confidence after doing a good job in IDM at Schleiz, but at the same time we did not have any big expectations, since the team had never raced in a world championship before. We were realistic and came here with the sole goal to have fun. However, the weekend was very challenging from the beginning and I had no feeling with the bike, I don’t know why, and I was definitely unsatisfied with the 28th place in Superpole, also because I was one second slower than when I raced on this circuit in IDM. Anyway, after struggling in Race 1 (24th place, ed), in the second race we tried to make the best out of the situation and when the weather got crazy with rain in some parts of the circuit, then on the whole circuit and then it stopped, I just tried to finish the race and avoid any crash and injury. And I made it, because I finished in sixth position, which was a great, unexpected result and the best way to finish this experience.
Your result in Race 2 was scored in particular conditions.
It was tricky, but as I said I tried to stay out and avoid any crash. In the end we got a great result and were also a little lucky, but what really matters is the classification on paper, not how it was achieved. It was definitely a great reward for our effort.
You have achieved this result with Eder Racing Team, a small squad with still short experience. Could you share more about them?
We started working together in 2021. I had planned to compete in the European rounds of World Supersport, but I left my team (DK Motorsport, ed) after the first round at Motorland Aragon. Back then I had known Thomas Eder (Team Owner, ed) for a few months, and he proposed me to join him in Most as a wildcard. In the first race we finished second, which was great, but then we were disqualified in Race 2 due to a mistake on the starting grid. In that moment, everybody was talking about our disqualification from the second race, but they completely forgot about what we had achieved in Race 1. That gave us even more motivation to continue the season together and in the following races we had a lot of fun and kept growing together, also in terms of personnel.
How many people work in the team?
On the technical side we have two mechanics, the telemetrist, the suspension technician and of course the team owner. On the other side, Thomas’s daughter and two good friends of ours are in charge for meals, gear and so on.
Your main focus in 2023 is IDM Supersport. How is it going there?
It is a bit different than in the past years, since they changed the regulations to match those in the World Championship, and now there are also the so called Next-Gen bikes on the field (in particular, there are four riders on a Triumph Street Triple 765, ed). We tried to be as consistent as possible, but we haven’t succeeded in it yet. At Sachsenring I was third in Race 1 and was taken out by another rider in Race 2. In Oschersleben I struggled with my shoulder injury from Sachsenring and I finish fifth and second. In Most I crashed in both races and had no good feeling on the bike. Then, in Schleiz I was fourth in Race 1 and third in Race 2, which was great considering that in the second race I was taken out by another rider and had to recover from last position. Overall it’s been a good season so far, despite being not so solid and sometimes also unlucky.
You were talking about injuries. In the last years you had plenty…
From 2019 I had a bad injury every year. In 2019 I broke my right heel and in 2020 I had a huge fracture in my right ankle and wasn’t even sure that I could use it again as usual, then I recovered. in 2021 I broke my right shoulder with also some damage in my ligaments. Then, in 2022 I also suffered hand and shoulder injuries and even broke three thoracic vertebrae in a high-speed crash at Schleiz. I nearly ended up on a wheelchair, but fortunately I could recover and come back. My body is not 100% fit, but I am happy to still be able to do what I love and I am grateful to all the people around me, like my family and my friends from Eder Racing Team. It helps overcoming hard times.
Going back instead to the two seasons you spent in Supersport World Championship in 2018 and 2019, what are your best memories from them?
The best memory is being able to ride in a world championship, a privilege not many riders can boast. Moreover, my rookie season (with “troubled” NRT Team, ed) was very good and I also finished three races in fourth position. In 2019 I was with Kallio Racing and the best memories from that year are the pole position in Aragon and the podium I achieved in Assen.
Apart from the results you have just mentioned, the 2019 season was a tough one and your last one to date in WorldSSP. What happened exactly in that year?
Especially after finishing third in Assen, I put more and more pressure on myself to win a race and it was definitely too much, which led to no fun on the bike and more and more struggle. Furthermore, I admit I was missing the right person on my side to get out of it.
After a look back, we conclude with a look at your future. What are your goals for the next races and for your career in general?
For the next races, I just want to have fun again and if we don’t make any other mistake, we will try and fight for the win. When it comes to my future, instead…I don’t know (laughs, ed). It all depends on my physical condition and of course on money. I am in a good situation here, but I still need to work and earn my own salary and that’s what I do, by working in the waste management company owned by my family. However, even if I still need to work my 40 hours per week, I can make time to train and race and this means the world to me. For the future we will see, in the meantime I enjoy my passion and thank all the people who support me.
Palmen in Motorradsport is grateful to Thomas Gradinger for his time and wishes him “Viel Erfolg” for the next races in IDM Supersport. And who knows, it wouldn’t be bad to see him back in the World Championship…