Knutsford's Oli Webb on course to conquer the racing world
PUBLISHED: 08:52 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 08:52 12 January 2015
After being crowned the 2014 European Le Mans Series champion, Knutsford's Oli Webb has his sights set on something higher for the next race season
Oliver Webb first caught a taste of the fast life at the age of nine at a friend’s birthday party. What was meant to be a fun day with friends at a go-karting track in Manchester quickly escalated into something much more: a serious passion for racing.
The 2014 season saw 23-year-old Oli take the title of European Le Mans Series champion with his team, Signatech Alpine. The win is a huge achievement, but even more so for Oli as it was his debut season in sports car endurance racing, moving away from his previous seasons of single seat racing.
‘It’s never been done before in someone’s first season. It’s been such an amazing year,’ exclaimed Oli. ‘I achieved Europe this year, and I hope to continue racing as a prototype driver next season and build up to the world championships.’
Oli’s talent for racing was evident when he achieved his first novice win aged 11. Over the years he progressed into Juniormax and T-Cars championships attaining many wins and podium finishes. However, it was during 2006 when Oli was entered into the Formula BMW Scholarship programme where he had a true chance to shine.
The driver is only one of six young people who have been granted the prestigious scholarship, where drivers are awarded with a financial contribution towards their racing budget and an education and coaching programme from BMW Motorsport.
Oli was awarded this prize after a gruelling selection day in Valencia, Spain, and then moved into single seater car racing with Formula BMW in 2007.
‘It became quite obvious that all I wanted to do was race,’ said Oli. ‘But I was still studying for my A levels at Shrewsbury school as my parents said if I wanted to carry on racing I had to secure a minimum of three B grades.
‘Despite having only 30% attendance due to my racing, I managed to achieve an A and two Bs meaning I could carry on with the sport!’
The commitment Oli demonstrates to the sport is tremendous. He currently trains four times a week at home in Knutsford and twice a week at Convi Fitness in Birmingham. When he’s not racing, he visits Liverpool each day to work with BAC Mono, a sports car manufacturing company where Oli is a test and development driver.
‘In season, I will also fly to France once a week to practice with Alpine, who are an old brand of Renault,’ said Oli. ‘I try to do the round trip in one day.’
Oli’s devotion to racing even saw him battle through a broken foot at the start of the 2014 season. ‘It happened during a training session two weeks before the first race,’ he said. ‘I basically lied to the team pretending each time I had sprained my ankle and rushed eight to 12 weeks’ worth of recovery in two weeks. I only told them the truth after we had won the European championship!’
With his path to success constantly on the up, will Oli ever want to move into Formula 1 and follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton?
‘At the moment, I’ll continue to move away from Formula 1 as it’s quite money orientated. Financial backing is extremely important to be successful at the very top of this sport and being in F1 can run into millions of pounds,’ he said. ‘I’m still really happy to be involved in prototype driving and I think you have a longer career span in this style of racing. However, it’s amazing to see Lewis Hamilton win the F1 world championship for the second time,’ Oli continued.
‘For UK racing it’s pretty incredible what we have achieved this year. At the top of all five racing ladders is a UK driver which has never occurred before. To be involved in that is just a huge compliment.’
Oli’s favourite places around Cheshire
Favourite bars and restaurants: When I’m not racing and get some down time back home I like to visit The Botanist in Alderley Edge or have something to eat at Gusto in Knutsford. There are so many nice places even just to grab a coffee and catch up in Wilmslow, Knutsford and Alderley Edge.
Why I like living in Cheshire
I have to keep fit for racing so I enjoy going on lots of walks, especially in the Peak District. It’s great to live somewhere where you can travel ten minutes out of town and be surrounded by lovely countryside.