2018 Porsche 944 Challenge champion, Jamie Westaway is back in season 2021 – and he’s doing rather well. The series’ own commentator and media producer, Matt Dunlop caught up with the man himself to check in on this season’s progress.
THE Westaway family has had a presence in the 944 Challenge every year since 2004, and young gun Jamie leads the charge in 2021.
Already a champion of the category in 2018, Jamie Westaway is back in the title hunt for 2021 and gunning for a chance to sample state-of-the-art GT3 machinery.
With a year and a half of Formula Ford experience under his belt, he made the jump to the one-make Porsche series in 2018 and won the championship in his rookie season.
After a spell in Hyundai Excels in 2019 and the lack of racing in the subsequent year, Westaway returned for his second full 944 campaign this season.
The Westaway stable added a third car before the start of the year, allowing Jamie to race alongside both father Tony and uncle Michael for the first time.
“Dad was very experienced in it, we have spare shells laying around in parts and he has a fair bit of know-how, and also he’s sort of in love with the category”, Westaway said.
“I’m now falling in love with the category, with the people, and it’s a great community. Above all, it’s one of the cheaper, more challenging vehicles you can get into if you want a real-wheel-drive, well-handling vehicle.
“For Victoria, the 944 series is probably the most competitive you can go to for under $100k.”
Family involvement has been a big benefit for Jamie’s own racing, and not just for hitting the ground running in that rookie campaign.
“We can work together to make cars faster and change a few setup things. I think I get a lot more out of teaching people how to drive as well. I like to give coaching advice to my dad especially, because it makes me a better driver, because then I reconsider things that I do as well. Having the whole family together is a great experience. It’s awesome fun as well.”
While the car setups behind Westaway’s five wins so far in 2021 are a family secret, he’s more than happy to lend a helping hand to the rest of the drivers when he can – even his closest rivals.
“I want competitive racing, and I think we all want competitive racing. We want to see each other actually out on track. No one wants to see anyone sitting out on the sidelines, and even with Cam [Beller] as well. I can’t offer too much to help because I’m not the mechanical brains. But dad certainly tries his best, and I will if I can, because I want to win on track against him, and not because of some default thing, you know.
“I think that’s the sense of camaraderie in the field, that we want everyone to be on the track having fun and being competitive, and then off track everyone’s just happy to be there and be a part of the community.
“A lot of people actually share the same alignment equipment and corner weight balancing equipment. Like, we borrow Andrew Jackman’s stuff, and I’m sure he would lend it out to other people as well. So when it comes to those sort of costs, everyone is sort of in it together, which is another part of the community as well. It’s fantastic that we all share a little bit of setup details. Across the Westway stable we’ve gotten quicker and quicker with trying new things through myself and through my dad – and then it trickles down to Michael, I suppose!”
Westaway currently leads the 2021 Victorian State 944 Championship, and credits the cars themselves to improving his skills as a driver.
“I would say 944s are very much a great starting point, because you learn how to apply trailing brakes, bringing the throttle on properly, waiting mid-corner and shifting the balance onto the rear of the car before you can actually get on the throttle, and practicing the exit corner speeds especially.”
“The handling of them is immense. For low power with so much grip, it really shocks people at how fast around corners we can actually go, and the sort of lap times that these cars can produce with only 120-ish kilowatts. They’re that low-powered, but the chassis and the control suspension, tires, and generally low adjustability makes them very competitive from the get-go, and also incredibly high performing in the corners especially.
“That’s the primary reason I think these cars are one of the best low-budget racing cars you can get into.
After notching up five wins and finishing on the podium in every race of the first three rounds, Westaway leads the state championship by two points over reigning champion Cameron Beller.
“It’s really fierce. It’s tight. It’s good racing. I’m excited for each round. I mean, I do love the competitive side of it, and it is looking like a really, really close championship.
“Whoever’s gonna blink first is the one who’s not gonna’ win. It’s about trying to stay consistent and on the pace.”
Tony Westaway shared the podium with the pair at Race 2 of Round 3 at Phillip Island, and three other drivers have tasted Top 3 success so far in season 2021.
“Right now it’s Cam and I up the front and occasionally you have Adam [Brewer], or you’ll have John Kennedy have a good weekend. But I think the median skill level is getting higher and higher each year, which is a great thing to see.”
The 944 Challenge is part of the Porsche Young Driver Development Program, and the series champion wins a full track day experience behind the wheel of a current-spec 911 GT3 Cup car.
Since his dad Tony won the prize in 2019 by finishing runner-up, Jamie has been pining for a chance to do the same.
“I’m absolutely hunting down for that prize. I would love an experience in those. One of the goals is to move up to that category, and having that experience in the car could give us that extra push to try and achieve going towards that category.
“To be a full-time driver – paid driver – is the lifelong goal. That’s exactly what I aspire to get to, but it’s a long and winding road. There’s a lot of setbacks. But all you can do is just keep trying as hard as you can and keep pushing forward.”
While VSRS Round 4 at Sandown has been sadly cancelled, Westaway and the rest of the 944 Challenge field are still scheduled to compete for the state championship in VSRS Round 5 at Phillip Island on September 25-26, the 944s proudly supported by Seat Time Race Solutions.
The final two rounds of the 944 Challenge will be at The Bend Motorsport Park on October 15-17 as part of the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships, followed by Island Magic at Phillip Island on November 20-21 presented by Bayside Commercial Real Estate.
You can follow the 944 Challenge via their Facebook and Instagram profiles, or head to 944challenge.com if you want to find out more about the series or get involved.
Watch all the VSRS action live and free on Blend Line TV via their YouTube channel and Facebook page, and don’t forget to check in regularly with the VSRS socials on Facebook and soon-to-be-launched Instagram page.