The new Champion of the FBL

Last time we talked to Nihad Gluscic, he had just won his first race in the fbl-championships. Now he has taken the crown of the WTEC 2021 by 1 point in a highly dramatic season finale in Interlagos. Of course we know you want to hear more of him.

FBL: We witnessed you become a race winner, and now we witnessed you become a Champion. How does it feel to be the man to beat in the FBL?

Nihad: It’s strange, I have a feeling like I stole something (laughs). To be perfectly honest, it feels very nice and rewarding and in any points-based championship, the person with the most points is the winner so it is well deserved and I’m very happy that fellow racers have stated so.

FBL: You went into the final race 5 points down to Daniele, and drove your worst Qualifying of the season (P11). Did you believe in your chance for the championship when the race began?

Nihad: To put it simply, no. The last part of the season was not very good for me. After my win in Monza, I experienced technical issues in Brands Hatch which is a pity as I had good pace and podium was definitely on, judging what was happening through the race. In Spa I was simply off pace and in Suzuka I spun on the grid and started the first lap plum last with a sizeable gap to the next person.

Whenever Daniele was in the lead, he knew Nihad was right there to profit of any mistake.

In Interlagos, I can only agree with you that I had the worst qualifying of the season – no problems or anything, I just couldn’t put together a good lap in these 15 minutes and I was way off from my personal best. One thing is common for these races though: I didn’t let it bring me down and I persevered and drove a consistent race in order to limit the damage and one can argue now that any single point form those races made a difference.

I was definitely tempted to just quit in Brands Hatch as I didn’t enjoy driving the car in that state – I’m glad I didn’t!

FBL: Were you aware of your position in the Championship throughout the race, or has there been a moment when you felt the pendulum may swing to your side?

Nihad: Well, coming into the race, I knew I was 5 points down on Daniele and I sort of expected him to collect the points for pole and fastest lap, as he has done that in 7 of the 8 races he took part in up to that point. So, I was looking at overcoming a 7 point deficit – knowing that all Daniele had to do was to finish in front of me made me firmly believe it was an impossible task, especially having in mind that we had a good turnout and so many fast drivers that can slot in between him and me.

I was so convinced that I had learned how to congratulate my team-mate in Italian.

Seeing how the race developed, poor qualifying position, good start for everyone so I wasn’t able to make positions at the start and then some 15 minutes into the race, I made contact with a spinning David just after Juncao and to make matters worse, I got a meatball flag and 4x so I was forced into an early pitstop. At this point, I took on additional 30 litres and new tyres and knew I had a very long stint ahead and I would have to do some serious tire management in order for it to work.

Not the defining moment of the Championship, but the defining moment of the season finale.

There was a moment when I passed Daniele on track where I entertained a thought that it was possible as Daniele fell behind Damian, Iwan and David. I knew that this position was good for me but there was so many laps left in the race. Daniele started making progress, passed David and Iwan who had a contact with the barriers and my last hope was in Damian – he was ahead but needed to do a second stop at some point. But, he only made a short stop and dashed out ahead of me and I wasn’t sure whether I would exit the pits in front of Daniele. When I did, I thought that it wasn’t enough and that I needed to be few places ahead.

All I could do is keep it on the grey stuff and collect the maximum safety points and hope for the best.

FBL: A championship over 10 races isn’t decided by one moment. But one would be tempted to pinpoint your victory to Daniele losing his car at the pit exit in Interlagos. Not only making him spin, but also getting a penalty for unsafe pit-exit. Which other moments did you keep in your mind throughout the season?

Nihad: I was mainly thinking about those tough moments where I didn’t give up and just continued driving with cool head and the results were coming in the end. Quite early on I adopted the endurance mentality in this championship and my approach was always to play the long game.

500 laps, always on the line.

FBL: In your post-race interview you articulated to feel sad for Daniele. Have you talked to him already and how is the status quo of Team Marlboro’s inner relations? In the end you were competing against each other throughout the whole season.

Nihad: Yes, we did speak. Daniele was the first to congratulate me, even before Sandro confirmed the points situation. He knew at the time that he wouldn’t get any safety points and I think he expected me to maintain my clean record. It is amazing that it came down to a single point in the end.
I was really sad for him and I expected him to be the champion from the very beginning and I was more than happy to support him on track. In Spa, it was clear that it was going to be a championship battle between the two of us and Nathan, but I still used the opportunity and gave him a tow to the pole lap. One must remember that he has helped me so many times too and I think this is one of the strongest Marlboro traits.

FBL: A crucial aspect on your way to the championship has been your consistency and safety throughout the season. 16 Incidents in 526 race-laps is an impressive number.

Nihad: I was always a very safe driver but even I was surprised just how well I did across the whole season. One of the reasons behind it is the endurance mentality which I mentioned and how you approach the races. The other reason was the CSL DD wheelbase which I started the season with.

This provided me with the fidelity of feedback and the precision needed, so I was able to be faster than before and also safer.

I’m able to recover from when my Radical was throwing a hissy fit. I have to say that my participation in the endurance events also helped hone that endurance mentality.

FBL: Any changes in gear and equipment planned for the next season?

Nihad: Yes, I need to fix or change my fan. I have a remotely operated fan which keeps me cool during the races, which in VR is a must as the body responds to the immersive experience. It started switching off during the race and at first I had to switch it on but the duration it stayed on was getting shorter and shorter. I was basically driving the car with one hand and fiddling with the remote with the other hand.
In all seriousness, no plans to upgrade at the moment but at some point, I would like to upgrade the rig as its gotten too small (or I have gotten bigger) and my Fanatec V1 pedal’s load cell is bound to give up at some point. Most importantly, I have now ordered an external USB hub with its own power – hopefully this will rectify the issues that plagued me in Brands Hatch, where one of my USB sources would lose power and act weird and those are all very important (wheel, pedals, VR).

The Champion thinks he has outgrown his rig 😉

FBL: Team Marlboro is about to change it’s name and livery. Can you already give us a hint of what we will see in the next season?

Nihad: Well, yes. As the league grows and increases its public image and broadcasts, tobacco sponsors don’t really sit well with that so Daniele and I decided to create an original team from the scratch. All I will say now is that it is something unique, with no precedent in the motorsport and it is something common to both of us. We will be making an announcement soon.

FBL: The upcoming schedules in the FBL have taken into account the Endurance Teams activities. Iwan Bremer and you seem to be the driving forces behind this project. What’s the goal of the team, what’s already planned and how can one join the Endurance Team?

Nihad: Endurance races is something I always admired and something I wanted to try. The problem is, you need someone to do it with. Naturally, when FBL decided to take part in the charity 24hrs race, I was keen to join but was not available to race that weekend but I kept track of the team progress.
Soon after, Iwan, Nathan and I did a 6hr Le Mans race as part of the iRacing ESS Endurance series and I loved every second of it. I discovered a whole new team aspect of racing and I really enjoyed it. I can tell you, those races are not as long as they seem. I think we would have done more but they were taking place exactly on Sundays when we had our Radical races so it would have been too much.

Getting on track with the Dallara P217. The FBL-Endurance Team.

FBL: As the upcoming schedules in the FBL have taken into account the Endurance Teams activities, what are it’s goal for the next season? Is there already something planned?

Nihad: This season, we de-conflicted the schedule so that it will be on alternating weekends instead. The idea is that we try and do these races together, have fun, learn a lot about endurance races, keep track of competitors and try and outsmart them with strategy and earn a lot of Safety Rating! I would encourage anyone to try it and don’t be intimidated about ruining the race for others – we are all in it and anyone can make a mistake but its not a big deal really. The point is to have fun and promote the FBL-Community.

The point is to have fun and promote the FBL-Community.

We mainly race Dallara P217 but GT3 cars are an option as well and this year, we are looking at three different series: VRS Endurance, IMSA Endurance, EES Endurance and once we get a pool of drivers, we could take part in longer events and iRacing special events. If someone doesn’t feel like doing big stints, we can set them up with a minimum stint and help them ease into it.
For example, in the IMSA Endurance Iwan and I did last weekend, we did around 80 laps and minimum requirement for one driver is something like 10-11 laps, even less if there are more drivers registered (No. of laps divided by No. of drivers and divided by four).

The FBL Endurance Team is racing in liveries by Iwan Bremer.

FBL: Looking ahead towards the next season. Are we gonna see you compete in both, the Radical Sprint and Endurance Championship?

Nihad: I will do my best really. I will definitely continue with the Radical Endurance and I will take part in all sprint events when I’m at home. During the summer time, we are away during weekends so Friday and Saturday nights are very difficult. 

FBL: Who do you think will be the biggest threat to you and the Marlboro team in the next season?

Nihad: That is a very good question – I think that Daniele will always be a contender and if he gets the consistency sorted, he will be tough to beat. Colin is definitely going to be a factor – his speed and consistency were masked by pit-stop issues and he had a very strong second half of the season – Colin has that balance of speed and consistency that will be hard to beat and the whole team stepped up a few levels with Graeme giving me the headache in the last few races. Off course, if Charlie is there, he too will be a formidable competitor.

It’s not lonesome at the top. Nihad has been in battle with nearly everyone in the field.

FBL: And as a last question, what feels better at the end of a season, having won the Driver-Championship or having defeated Team Gulf in the Team-Championship?

Nihad: Hm, let me think… Throughout the whole season, I had only three car contacts but I only enjoyed two of them (laughs). On a more serious note, I really enjoyed the Gulf challenge and it has kept me occupied regardless where I was in terms of position. I was always keeping an eye on the standings and trying to ensure that we are ahead. That was fun and I am looking forward to more of that.

FBL: Thanks for your time Nihad, and good luck for the next seasons!


NIHAD GLUSCIC

Located: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Profession: I am a Master of Science in Policy and Management and work for the British Embassy in Sarajevo. I enjoy photography and have started editing videos too. I am also a sailing skipper and a guitar player so I tend to always be busy with some sort of project ☺ Simracing Highlights: Winning the FBL WTEC 2021 and collecting all safety points.

Youtube: VR Sims (kruger78) – you can watch me fly some VR flight sim missions there.

Instagram: Nihad Gluscic (kruger1978) – not much there, mostly family stuff.

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