GP3 is a very high profile, highly respected junior feeder series. The cars, tracks, schedule and teams expect a lot from their drivers and not everyone is cut out for it. For one young driver, though, this season is all about learning.
I got the opportunity to talk to GP3 driver, Josh Webster, as he prepares for his debut in the series with Status GP.
1. What/who got you into motorsports and who influenced you most in your very early career?
Both my mum and dad are motorsport fans and as a family (with my two sisters) we went to lots of motorsport events. We used to go to the local circuits when we were really young, mainly to Snetterton and Brands Hatch. We used to watch whatever was racing and loved all of it but I always got most excited about the single seaters. When we got a bit older, we travelled further to Zandvoort to watch DTM and F3 and Nurburgring for F1. When we weren’t at a circuit we’d watch motor racing on the TV.
I soon learned that I was pretty hopeless at all the usual sports at school and I think by the time I was 12 my parents had tried to get me into most sports with no success.
We had no experience of being involved in karting or any motorsport at all, apart from being spectators so it wasn’t an obvious choice, but when we went indoor karting for the first time, we loved it so much that my mum booked for my sister and I to go to Buckmore Park to try their Junior hire kart sessions in the school holiday.
From there it just grew and grew! Both my sister and I trained for our first kart racing licence at Buckmore Park and both raced there in our first ever race as novices in September 2006.
2. What was the most difficult part of balancing the racing aspect of your life with being a normal kid?
I had to have a licence issued by the local council to take time off school for racing. When I was racing in both UK and European championships in 2008 and 2009 I did miss quite a lot of school time and this took a lot of effort to make sure I caught up with the work I’d missed.
Once I started racing in cars in 2010 it was slightly improved as you get a lot less time in the car, but I always felt under pressure during GCSE and A levels due to missing lessons and I always seemed to be having to explain where I was and what I was doing.
3. Was there ever a point in your career when you questioned whether you wanted to continue racing?
No! I have always wanted to race, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. We’re a normal family and all the family have sacrificed a lot for me to race. There have been real lows when we’ve have had a poor result or had a big accident and real frustration when these things are outside our control, but I have always wanted to get back out racing as soon as possible afterwards.
4. Was there pressure to get sponsorship as early as your karting career or did that become a prominent part of racing once you got into single-seaters?
We have always had to budget very carefully at all stages of my career and there have been times when it has been touch and go whether we’d be able to race or not. Sponsorship for any motorsport is really hard to obtain, but for karting it’s even harder. I didn’t get any sponsors really until I started in cars and getting the budget is still the hardest part of racing.
5. You’ve finished no lower than 4th in any of your racing championships, going all the way back to karting. Does that add any pressure to this year, now that you are in a very well-known junior formula?
I don’t feel there’s any pressure on me for GP3 as I am making such a big step up. I have a huge amount to learn this year.
I am one of the least experienced drivers in GP3 and I’m moving into a car with more than twice the horsepower of the Formula Renault with Pirelli tyres and little seat time on circuits I’ve never driven. My aim is to learn as much as I can about the car, the tyres, and the circuits and put solid foundations in place to aim for good results in 2014.
6. When did the opportunity of racing in GP3 for 2013 arise? How did the deal come about?
The plan was to race in Formula Renault 2.0 UK (BTCC package) in 2012, and I raced in FR2.0 Winter Series as preparation for the 2012 season. Unfortunately the series was cancelled at the last minute. My sponsors had finalised their marketing plans for my racing in the UK so that they could entertain their guests so I was unable to move to Formula Renault Eurocup and had to do another year in Formula Renault BARC as it was the only option to continue to race.
My primary sponsor decided at the end of 2012 to increase their profile in motorsport by moving into GP3. It is a big move, but I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity and will do my best to step up to the challenge!
The car itself is a challenging car to drive and with limited testing it’s hard to find the limit of the car. A big challenge is to learn the Pirelli tyre which is very different to anything I have experienced before and there is a limited amount of tyres available.
The issue with GP3 generally is lack of time in the car as pre-season testing is only 7 days and with a brand new for 2013 car, inevitably there have been a few teething problems which have limited running time. Some of the GP3 drivers are getting additional testing in World Series Renault 3.5 cars but my budget won’t stretch that far so the next time I’ll be in the car will be in the 45 minute practice at Barcelona!
The car is physically more demanding than a Formula Renault to drive, so I have had to concentrate more on my shoulders and arms in addition to my usual fitness training and this has meant that I have had no fitness problems in stepping up to the car.
8. Does racing in GP3 require any more traveling than you did in other series and are you used to it by now?
We had a lot of travelling when I was in karts as we raced all around the UK and Europe and we were racing really frequently. We even raced in Egypt at the World Finals in 2009!
The only overseas race I had last year was the F3 Masters in Zandvoort and there was a huge crowd of really enthusiastic race fans who made it a great experience. I hope it will be the same when we race in Europe this year! This year all the races are in Europe apart from the final race in Abu Dhabi which will be an amazing trip. I enjoy travelling and I really appreciate the chance to visit other countries.
9. Where do you see yourself in five years? Not only racing-wise, but in life in general?
A driver needs a huge amount of financial resources to make it through GP3, GP2 and into F1 so I can’t look too far ahead. I just hope that I can make a successful career in motorsport as a driver and if everything works out amazingly well and I find the backing of course I’d like to think I’d be racing in F1.
10. Finally, what makes racing special to you? Why do you place it above other sports?
Well I was spectacularly unsuccessful in all sports until I found karting when I was 12, so racing has completely changed my life, giving me confidence and focus. I love everything about motorsport and there’s nothing else that comes close.