At just 16, Xander Antonieff is already making a name for himself in competitive motorsport.
While still a few years away from being able to legally drive a road car, at age 12 he became the youngest person in Australia to qualify for a national racing license after a chance meeting with the General Manager at Queensland Raceway.
He finished fifth overall in last year’s Queensland Racing Driver Championship and won the series’ Rookie of the Year award. He’s had success in both Time Attack racing and in entry-level sedan racing, where he has regularly shown up his much older and more experienced competitors.
Will Xander make it all the way up the motorsport ladder? We spoke exclusively with Australia’s next hot prospect…
|Xander Antonieff||Australian||22 July 2004, Alexander Hills|
|2017||Keema Cars Excel Cup, 15 races, 54 pooints, 27th overall|
|2018||Queensland Excel Cup, Hog’s Breath Racing, 16 races, 1 podium, 39 points, 24th overall|
|2019||Series X3 Queensland, 16 races, 82 points, 15th overall|
Your grandfather and father have both raced competitively. Was it almost fate that propelled you into pursuing a professional career in car racing?
Dad and Grandpa both started racing around the same time with each other. From there on they both started winning championships – three apiece – and through all of that I was watching them win and succeed. From their success, I wanted to give it a shot and it went from there.
What was the support of your family during the formative years of your racing career? How have their exploits and achievements influenced your development?
Dad and Grandpa pretty much did everything they did to make the most out of my Go Kart when I was racing at the time. They didn’t push me into anything and were there for me through all the ups and downs I had. My mum is my number-one fan and loves watching me race and was always there for me too. Their collective influence one has helped me out big time; without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Outside of your family, who were your first motorsport heroes? What was significant about their achievements or character that you admired?
Aryton Senna, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mark Webber and out of the current drivers they would be Daniel Riccardo, Scott McLaughlin, Lewis Hamilton, Scott Pye, Mat Simmons and Chaz Mostert. They are all my heroes because they have complete determination – no matter what happened they kept pushing and nothing could hold them back. With a couple of them they were not too wealthy and, like my family, their families put whatever they could into their racing.
Your first karting experience came before the age of 10 in a dirt-kart. What are your recollections of your first time behind the wheel?
The first time behind the wheel was amazing! I felt free and I had so much fun. After my first run, I came in and told Dad and Grandpa what the kart was doing and they fixed it up and went from there.
What did your early achievements in competitive karting mean to you?
My early achievements in go-karting felt amazing. It was very competitive and I tried my best. After a while I started winning and I think from then it strived me to push on. I almost won a championship but sadly I broke my collarbone and suffered a third-degree burn in the last race of the year, which bumped me down to third overall. From that setback, it pushed me to do better and I finally got that championship win back last year where I won the Queensland Rookie title out of eleven categories.
You are the youngest person ever to hold a competitive racing license in Australia. How has it been to compete against and beat drivers who have far more experience?
I had the opportunity to drive a Bandolero around Lakeside Raceway at the age of 11 years and 3 months and impressed everyone. Dad joked to the staff of Queensland Raceway to start having a look and getting me into Excels and the next day the General Manager of Queensland Raceway said “Oh I hear Xander is joining us next year”.
I qualified for my racing license at the age of 12. Usually you can’t get it until you’re at least 14 and it takes upwards of five practice days; mine took only three days.
To race against some very experienced guys is awesome. I have sat behind anyone I could to learn by following their lines and braking points to take in everything they were doing. The best thing about those times was they would come up to me and help me out as much as possible, so it was just awesome to have support that around me.
You had a big accident early on in your racing career at Lakeside. What are your recollections of the crash and how you have to overcome any psychological doubts to get back behind the wheel?
So the big crash I had at the almighty Lakeside Raceway was crazy. I can still see and hear it even now, but really it was just a thing that happened – I was boxed in going under the bridge on the inside and I hit the big bump there. My car got airborne and spat me into the wall. It was a big hit, and although I wanted to keep racing the marshals called me in. I got checked out and I was all clear.
Dad and Grandpa tapped and repaired the car and I was out and ready for the next race. I was nervous but that’s racing – you have crashes and all you can do is just push on. I know what I did wrong and all I can do is improve from there. I started last (24th) and in 12 laps I managed to finish around 15th which I was really happy about.
You’ve been competing in the Queensland Series X3 Championship. What are the benefits and challenges of competing in a spec series such as this? How has this honed your racecraft as a young racing driver?
So before racing in X3 Series I was racing Track Attack and that’s where I learnt most of my racecraft. To jump up into the X3 series was amazing. The drivers are much more competitive and it was a more challenging championship, but with the help of some people I managed to jump up to the fringes of the top-ten and just learn from the guys ahead of me.
What is your most favourite circuit at which you have raced so far, and why? What’s your dream circuit (or circuits) on your bucket list?
My favourite circuit to have raced around so far would have to be Lakeside, even though I crashed there. It is just such an amazing track to be on; you’re never bored and you always get a thrill out of it. The top three circuits I want to race on have to be Bathurst, the Nurbürgring and Spa-Francorchamps – they are some amazing tracks and I would just love to race around them.
What targets are you setting for yourself in 2020? How is the COVID-19 situation impacting your racing?
If COVID-19 did not occur this would have been my final year in the X3 Series, but because of it we are selling the Excel. I will instead be running in Dad’s car and we will use the sale proceeds to rebuild an old Formula Ford – the plan is to drive in the Westfield Clubman and Formula Ford Championships next year.
What are your future career goals?
My goal for the future is to become a professional race car driver, hopefully over in Europe. At this early stage I am just hoping for a drive and I will take whatever opportunities I can get.
How can fans and corporate sponsors get behind you and provide further support for your career?
Fans and sponsors can happily follow me on my Facebook and Instagram. If anyone is willing to help me out in my career send me a message on either platform. I’m happy to meet prospective sponsors face-to-face, to get to know you and take it from there.
Images via Xander Antonieff
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