2014 will go down as a potentially career-defining season for Josh Webster, his first campaign in GT racing after moving from single-seaters ending with him being crowned the Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion.
It was a risky move for the former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist to step away from the open-wheel scene, having reached the heights of GP3 in 2013, but a sensational maiden campaign as the 2014/15 Porsche Scholar could well be the first step in a bright career in GT competition.
Joining the championship with Redline Racing as the latest victor of the Porsche Scholarship competition, Webster put his lack of GT experience behind him to showcase himself as a championship contender from the word go.
After notching his maiden Porsche victory with a superb drive in treacherous conditions in Round Four at Donington Park, it was in the middle of the season that Webster truly came to the fore, with a standout performance at Le Mans leading into double wins at Croft and then Snetterton.
Those results meant that despite a resurgence from his team-mate and chief title rival Michael Meadows in the next few meetings, Webster held the championship lead heading into the final rounds of the season at Brands Hatch GP.
Second place ahead of Meadows in the opening encounter meant he had the advantage for what turned out to be a nail-biting final race. On slick tyres in increasingly wet conditions, Webster held his nerve to follow Meadows home to be crowned champion.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag after the race, Webster described the tension and drama of the finale, and expressed his delight at securing the crown and becoming the first Scholar to win the championship in their maiden Carrera Cup GB campaign.
“There was one point in the race I thought ‘this could all go wrong’, the rain was getting heavier and heavier, Michael [Meadows] was backing me up in to the field and they all looked daunting the way they were squabbling. I thought if I got put in amongst that I was a goner,” he said.
“It didn’t work out that way though, and what a fantastic feeling. The waterworks after the race were from the relief really, cause so much could have gone wrong this weekend, but it’s all gone right and I can’t believe in my scholarship year, my first year, I’ve won it.
“Thank you to all of the team, all the sponsors, without them I really wouldn’t have done it, so this one is for all of them.”
It was the four wins in a row around the mid-season summer break that turned the title momentum in Webster’s favour, but with a two-time champion breathing down his neck, Webster predicted at the time that it was “only going to get harder from here.”
That certainly proved to be the case, with Meadows going on to win six of the final eight races, and Webster admits he relished duelling with his experienced adversary.
“Hats off to Michael, he’s been an awesome competitor all year. For him it sucks, he’s won the last two years, he wanted the hat-trick and he’s had some bad luck this season, with consistency really paying off for me,” Webster reflected.
“It’s been really hard these last few meetings, Michael has been very quick, and that last race was definitely the hardest of my career so far.”
Consistency was certainly the key to Webster’s championship victory. While Meadows suffered a pivotal retirement at Croft and mechanical issues at Rockingham, Webster secured a podium finish in each of the nineteen races over the course of the season, and he feels keeping his feet on the ground and remaining calm were vital to his success.
“I think I’ve just been relaxed, I’ve kept a level head and not looked too much into things. I’m quite a chilled out guy anyway, so I don’t let much phase me,” commented the Nine Group, Admiral and Porsche Retail Group-backed driver.
“I know it’s easier said than done, but I’ve just tried to keep things consistent all year. There’s no real secret to it, it’s just a case of everything working out for me, so I have to be appreciative of that and really enjoy this moment.”
Webster’s first full car-racing title win has been a long-time coming for the 20 year old, who was twice denied the title in Formula Renault BARC, finishing runner-up to Dino Zamparelli and Scott Malvern in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Webster admits that his Porsche success tastes even sweeter after those heartbreaks, and feels the victory fully justifies his switch into GT racing.
“I’ve come painfully close before, 2011 and 2012 were really horrible for me, and then last year in GP3 was a nightmare year. It feels like that was all worth it now though, as a driver you’re always pushing for success so to have lost out twice makes it sweeter.
“I feel like I’ve moved to GT’s and really clicked with it. The Porsche’s are not easy cars to drive, so to have gone and had the season I’ve had straight out the box, it’s incredible.”
With a championship title under his belt, Webster is now targeting a career in GT racing and hopes to climb the Porsche ladder up to Le Mans. While that’s the long-term dream, the immediate focus is on where he’ll be racing next year.
While the Stowmarket racer has £80,000 towards his Carrera Cup GB title defence as part of his Scholarship prize, he has also entered the International Porsche Scholarship for the Porsche Supercup and feels if the opportunity arises he’s ready for the step up to the F1 support series.
“The winter starts now, and the excitement starts again as we look at what we’re going to do next year. It might be Porsche Supercup or Carrera Cup GB again, either way I’ll be happy to just be out there racing,” he concluded.
“Winning a championship really does put you in the limelight, it puts you on the radar for Porsche and others, so we’ll see what comes from this.”