November 17, 2022
People & Places

Life in the fast lane

He might still be on his P-plates on the road, but teenage motorsport talent Sebastien Amadio will test himself at speeds of up to 300km/h on the same track as his F1 heroes during the Australian Grand Prix this month.

The overpowering smell of fuel and burnt rubber combines with the screaming throttles of a dozen thundering engines lined up on the grid. Tightly strapped into a 560-horse-power machine and peering over a bonnet barely a metre off the ground, adrenaline is well and truly red-lining when the starting lights go out and tyres start spinning.

Seventeen-year-old Sebastien Amadio can taste the tension as he visualises getting behind the wheel in front of thousands of motorsport fans at the Australian Grand Prix this month. It’s a situation he’s run through his mind countless times and yet he is remarkably composed for a driver who was racing go-karts only two years ago.

“I do get nervous, but if you don’t, you’re not going to win. Nerves aren’t always a bad thing; they’re part of racing. It’s about staying calm, blocking everything out and minimising any mistakes,” says Sebastien.

Sebastien will compete in the exciting S5000 class – Australia’s fastest category of racing car that can reach speeds of up to 300km/h. The V8-powered machine looks like a Formula 1 car but is a modern successor to the Formula 5000 category, which captivated Australian motor racing fans throughout the 1970s.

The St Ignatius’ School Year 12 student will be in the classroom one day and on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit the next, kicking off with practice, qualifying and three races from April 7 to 10.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for me and I can’t wait to get over there to the Grand Prix circuit and show what I’m made of,” Sebastien says.

The young driver was last year approached to join the Melbourne-based Garry Rogers Motorsport team, which has over the years uncovered talented drivers who have gone on to win multiple Bathurst 1000s.

With the challenge of Year 12 and the expenses involved with racing, Sebastien won’t complete the entire S5000 racing season but will choose to race further events such as the Grand Prix to progress his motorsport career.

“It’s a real privilege to drive one of these cars at the Melbourne track, especially with the F1 and Supercars drivers being there and so many people watching. At the same time, I’m keeping focused on myself and not worrying about anyone else,” he says.

Sebastien and his brother Christian grew up around motorsport. Their father – South Australian winemaker Danniel Amadio – is a Superkart driver himself and their grandfather Gaetano “Caj” Amadio was a passionate driver of rally cars, sprint cars and Italian machines.

“I’ve been around motor racing my whole life; there are photos of me in Dad’s old go kart when I was only a few months old,” says Sebastien.

“My brother Christian and I have always been around racetracks. Dad would take us to the Clipsal 500 every year and I watched all kinds of motorsport on TV when I was growing up. One day, Dad took us out to have a look at a go-kart race meeting and we fell in love with it. I started racing when I was nine.”

Sebastien has needed to mature quickly, in life even more so than motorsport. In 2017, his mother Bilya Amadio sadly died from breast cancer – an experience that has since brought Sebastien, Christian and Danniel closer together.

“The three of us have always been close, even when Mum was still around, but ever since that day five years ago we have become closer. Losing mum – and some other moments in my life – has taught me about growing up, maturing and doing things the right way to think about others and not just myself,” he says.

“It was difficult not having your mum next to you at the racetrack, no one wants go through that. We took some time off from the racing world and got away from it for a while. At the same time, it’s a sport I love and I know Mum wouldn’t want me to give up on something if I really loved it. Eventually, we got back into racing and we haven’t stopped.”

Sebastien has quickly adapted to racing the V8 S5000 which puts its driver under strong g-forces as they break, corner and accelerate.

Motorsport became a consuming passion. In 2018, aged 14, Sebastien started racing the more powerful Superkarts and was a regular podium finisher from the outset, dominating at the national level in just his second senior season.

In late 2020, The Bend Motorsport Park founders Sam Shahin and Yasser Shahin invited Sebastien to race an open-wheel Formula Toyota during The Bend Classic. Despite being thrown into the deep end for his first ever car race, the rookie won – in the wet, no less.

“I didn’t have a radio headset on, so I had no idea what position I’d finished. When I came into the pits, I was just thankful that no one had overlapped me and hoped I’d done a good enough job. Then, everyone was telling me I’d won the race – I had no idea,” he says.

In 2021, Sebastien raced his first event in the S5000 category and impressively finished second overall; a surprising result and not bad for someone still on their L-plates at the time. His results speak to his ability to learn from others and his dedication to meeting the physical demands of racing.

“One of the most important things I’ve learnt is harnessing your emotions; keeping a cool head and not getting too frustrated at yourself or blaming anyone or anything else. I’ve worked really hard on keeping calm behind the wheel, settling down nerves and blocking out everything else,” he says.

For Sebastien’s father, racing has become a shared passion with his sons, but it’s something that he never forced on them.

“When my wife passed away, racing was something we held onto; it kept us together,” says Danniel.

“Losing their mother was difficult, but they both came out the other side very strong. Obviously, they miss their mother very much but Sebastien knows she’s watching and he’s very grateful for the time and opportunities he had with her.

“I’ve seen many changes in Sebastien, and he has seen them himself, particularly in the last three years. It’s not just about going fast, it’s all the other things that come with it: your pit crew, not letting other drivers get in your head or seeing if you have a bad day – trying to keep your emotions in check.”

In pursuing any professional sport there is the added modern pressure of social media and being in the public eye. However, Sebastien knows there is no getting past the importance of schoolwork.

“Dad and I made a deal that if I don’t do well at school, the racing would have to stop until I get my grades up. Thankfully I’ve been keeping up with my schoolwork. I’ll make some choices towards the end of this year about what I want to do after school,” he says.

Whatever happens on the track, Sebastien knows he has already done his family proud and that his mother would be watching on. “Mum came out to the go kart track a few times but it wasn’t the most fun for her to see her boys going around in circles, praying that nothing would happen to us,” he says.

“She knew that we were having fun, so she was happy. The main thing was seeing a smile on her face when we came back from the race track and saying ‘well done’, whether it was a good day or a bad day.”


This article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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