In our continuing series during which EnduranceandGT editor Andy Lloyd meets with the next generation of motorsport professionals, we spoke with Jamie-Lea Hawley, a 17-year-old Widnes-based driver who has targeted the 2020 Clio Cup UK Championship as the next step in her driving career.
Jamie-Lea Hawley began her racing career, as do many young drivers, competing in karts. By 2014, Jamie-Lea was contesting the Kartmasters British Grand Prix in the Rotax Mini Max class and a promising mid-field finish made Jamie-Lea set her sights on cars. By 2017 she had gained a fully funded drive in the Ford Fiesta Junior Championship. A highly competitive season saw her finishing tenth in the standings.
In 2018 Jamie-Lea targeted a drive in the Clio Cup Junior championship but sponsorship challenges has seen the Riverside College student sit out much of the last two years. in 2020, however, Jamie-Lea is focused on getting back behind the wheel and driving with Student Motorsport Racing in the Clio Cup UK Championship.
Where did the inspiration for a motorsport career come from, Jamie-Lea?
“When I was nine, my family went on holiday to Turkey and there was a karting track. I’d never been in anything like that but we went out and immediately I was quick. Nobody in my family could keep up with me so straight away I started asking my dad if we could take up karting more seriously.
“I didn’t give up asking until he finally agreed!”
Had you watched Formula 1 or Touring Cars before that made you interested in racing?
“No, nothing. My family doesn’t have a background in racing.”
Many drivers say that it’s better to have experience in karts before moving on to cars. Would you agree?
“I would agree. I do know people who have gone straight into cars but if you’ve not had karting experience, you’ve got to have the budget. It’s a lot harder to approach sponsors without some experience on your racing CV.”
Was your family your crew at those early events?
“At the very early events, yes but I was lucky to be selected as junior driver for Intrepid UK so I had factory support from them. I also helped out at the race team’s workshop when I was 12 or 13 and I stripped all the karts. It was very useful experience.”
How did the sponsorship offer come about for the 2017 Ford Fiesta Junior Championship?
“We got a phone call and initially we weren’t sure if it was a serious offer but we decided to explore it. We went for the test day and the sponsors were impressed to the point that they were prepared to back me for the whole season.”
You made great progress throughout that season and achieved some excellent results. What was the stand-out moment of the year for you?
“Croft was a good weekend. I got two sixth-place finishes and there was one move into Sunny In that I was particularly proud of. In the second race, which was wet, I had to drop back to last to avoid a car in front but I made my way back up to sixth. I think I also got second fastest lap of the race! So Croft stands out a high point of the year for me.”
What were the main learning points that you took from the year?
“The transition into cars was a big leap and learning about car control, how you approached corners and choosing the best racing lines meant that the whole year was a huge learning curve. I learned so much throughout the season and it was a massive year for me.
“I had a driver coach for Croft, purely because on the Friday test day I was too young to be allowed out on my own. My coach stayed to support me for the rest of the weekend as well which was a huge help. The rest of the season I prepared as best I could using videos before the race weekend and then had to learn the track myself when I got to the circuit.”
In 2020 you’re targeting a drive in the Clio Cup UK championship with Student Motorsport Racing. Why that championship and that team?
“The Clio Cup championship has always been supportive of me and when I met Student Motorsport Racing at Autosport in January, I could hear the passion in their voices. It’s not just a business for them and they have the same love for racing that I have.
“After the disappointment of 2018, I was feeling a bit disillusioned but following Autosport and meeting with JP Latham and the team, it’s reignited my passion for racing again.”
What challenges are you facing before you can take up your place on the grid in May?
“The biggest challenge will be financial and I am currently working flat-out to get the sponsorship in place. I know, from my time in the Ford Fiesta Junior Championship, that I can represent a sponsor well.
“After the success of W Series (the international single-seater series launched in 2019), there is a greater appetite for backing young female drivers and I hope that companies will see the value that I can deliver for them.”
Which direction do you ultimately want your racing career to go?
“The end-goal is racing something with four wheels and an engine and I’ve not targeted which series I want to aim for. As long as I’m racing, I’m happy.
“I know people have goals for touring cars, GTs and the other series but if I ended up in a single-seater – great! If I ended up in tin-top – great! As long as I’m racing, that’s all I want to happen as that makes me happy.”
The Clio Cup UK Championship gets underway at Snetterton on May 16 – 17.
Enquiries concerning sponsorship of Jamie-Lea Hawley can be sent to Jamiefirstname.lastname@example.org.