Josh Webster shone bright in the fading light at Brands Hatch to record the ‘greatest achievement’ of his motor racing career on Sunday.
The 20-year-old former European karting champion and single-seater racer proved he is a perfect fit for sports cars after beating double reigning champion Michael Meadows to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB title.
Starting the weekend four points clear, a maximum haul in qualifying and the first of two races appeared to make Webster’s job a formality — only for rain to make an appearance during the finale.
However, he kept his nerve to finish second behind race winner Meadows and take the crown in front of tens of thousands of people at the Kent circuit and live on ITV4.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic — I can’t believe it,” said Webster on the Brands Hatch podium. “My head’s all over the place.
“This is my greatest achievement, for sure.
“The last championship I won was in 2009 — the European Karting Championships.
“I came so close in Formula Renault BARC and then had such a bad year in GP3 last year, so the champagne has never tasted so sweet.”
Webster — who lives in Mickfield, near Debenham — was one of only two drivers to finish every race and, although he scored five wins to Meadows’ 11, his greater consistency — just once was he off the podium in 19 races — secured him the crown.
“During the year, I haven’t been that content with seconds and thirds, but they all seem so worth it now,” he said.
Webster’s weekend got off to the perfect start when he took both pole position points on Saturday, with only non-scoring guest Dan Cammish ahead of him on the grid.
That was a scenario played out in the first of two races on Saturday when Webster initially challenged Cammish for the lead before tucking in behind the former Formula Ford champion for a relatively comfortable run to maximum points, including an additional point for setting the fastest lap of one minute 29.925 seconds on lap 14.
All the action was happening in the Suffolk speedster’s mirrors as Meadows dropped to fifth behind Victor Jimenez and Pepe Massot, who initially challenged Webster’s position before fading away.
Although Meadows finally dispatched Massot on lap nine, Jimenez and Webster were too far clear to hand the latter an 11-point advantage heading into the final round.
Webster only needed to finish in the top five points scorers to take the title and he showed little interest in fighting Meadows too hard when he was passed on the inside of Hawthorns in the second race.
That allowed the double reigning champion to back a frustrated Webster into the field, leaving the championship leader to gesture angrily at his rival’s tactics.
Webster later accepted that was all Meadows could do to try and throw a spanner in his title charge, but a more significant one came in the form of the rain.
Leader Cammish dived in for wet tyres, leaving Meadows and Webster to tip-toe around at the front on slicks, but the Nine Group-backed ace clung on to the tarmac to cross the line with his lights flashing in a title-clinching second position.
“It couldn’t have been made any harder with this weather and being on slicks in these conditions,” added Webster. “I knew what I had to do, went out there and got a really good start.
“I just can’t believe it — massive thanks to the team, Nine Group, James Palmer and all the sponsors.
“They are the reason why I’ve been able to get on to the track in the first place and I’ve done the easy bit because I’m just driving around.”
Having been awarded a scholarship to move into the championship this year from an ill-fated stint in GP3, Webster became the first driver to take the title with that tag and he hopes his triumph can be the launch pad he needs for a successful career in sports cars.
“This definitely puts you on the radar,” he said. “Porsche are doing really well and have a lot going for them all the way up to the LMP1 (Le Mans) class — my aim is to become a works driver for them.”
Webster should find out within the week whether he has won a scholarship to compete in the Porsche Supercup, which this year was on the Formula One undercard for several Grand Prix, including Monaco.