Clemente ready to step up

Michael Clemente with his trusty Excel. (Supplied)

By Lance Jenkinson

Michael Clemente will make his TCR Australia Touring Car Series debut on the grand stage at Albert Park on Formula 1 grand prix weekend in March.

The eyes of the world will be on the young up-and-coming racing car driver from Sanctuary Lakes as he takes his step up to a higher class of motor racing.

“To be participating at the Formula 1 event is something huge,” Clemente said.

“It’s an internationally recognised circuit and there’s a lot of meda and hype.

“I can’t wait to get out there and finish my first race, get that one under my belt.

“We’re all very excited.” Clemente has dominated the Excel racing series in recent years.

The 18-year-old won an Excel series national championship and was named the CAMS rising star winner.

He knew it was time for a new challenge, so he got in contact with Wall Racing team to do testing over one weekend last year and did so with great outcomes for him and his team.

“On that test day, we were quite successful,” Clemente said.

“We were the fastest on track, which is really good to see because there was a lot of experience drivers and a lot of people familiar with these cars.” It all snowballed from there for Clemente.

He bought the Honda Civic that he tested in and immediately went to work to get it up to scratch for TCR racing. Then he launched his own team, Michael Clemente Motorsport.

“A lot of people in the team have been with me since day one, so it’s really cool we’re running our own team,” Clemente said.

Clemente knows he will be the small fish in the big TCR pond in his rookie season, but that does not faze him.

The Emmanuel College graduate is in it for the long haul and will not stop until he rises to the top.

“I know starting out we’ll be mid-pack or towards the back, so there’s not really high expectations to start off with, but I just know that with time, we’ll eventually get our way to the front of the grid.”

Clemente describes his introduction to car racing as “a little bit of a weird one”.

He did not inherit the passion for racing, even though his dad Danny had a passion for cars and once restored a mustang.

“In terms of racing, there was no one in my family who had done it before,” Clemente said.

“I remember one day, I was in the backyard driving the golf buggy for about two hours and I smashed the fence.

“Dad thought it would be a good idea to get me out of there and put me in dodge ’em cars, so it really started from there.”

Clemente’s passion for racing grew at the Geelong Go Kart club.

Dominic Albanese took Clemente under his wing and mentored him about the finer points of kart racing.

After plenty of success in the go karts, Clemente turned to the Excel racing series, where he found another mentor in David Burn, who helped with the technical aspects of racing.

Clemente is excited by what lies ahead in the TCR series this year.