By Colin MacGillivray
WALLAN motorsport phenomenon Cooper Webster is refusing to let the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on his dream of an eventual career in Australia’s Supercars Championship.
Webster, 17, is on the cusp of a breakout season after last month being announced as the youngest full-time driver for the 2020-21 Australian S5000 Championship – described as the ‘premier open-wheel class in the Australasian region’.
Webster’s signing with the Australian Racing Enterprise S5000 team came off the back of an outstanding string of results in the Hyundai Excel racing series.
He finished second overall in the Victorian championship, winning a round and also taking out an enduro race.
Webster qualified second at a race in last year’s Excel national championships at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia, finishing the series sixth overall.
But with the start of the S5000 season delayed due to the pandemic, he said he was unsure when he would be able to race again.
“I had a test day in the car and that went really well, getting to grips with the car and the track and the speeds and the power it has,” he said.
“But at the moment we’re unsure of when the first round will be. It was supposed to be in Sydney this month.
“If COVID wasn’t happening we would have gotten to do a few more test days in the car. Everything has been limited, from experience in the car to getting organised to go race.”
While limited access to a car would be a huge obstacle for most drivers, Webster has another way of keeping his eye in – a racing simulator.
Webster won the Bathurst Enduro race as part of the the ARG eSports Cup earlier this year.
He said racing simulations were an excellent way to keep his skills sharp.
“The next best thing other than racing in real life is racing on the simulator, because the competition is as high on that as it is in real life,” he said.
“Because it’s at home you can always get onto it, and the simulation is so close to real life that most of the things translate from real life into the game.
“It’s a really good tool to keep your mind thinking about racing, so that’s what I’ll be concentrating on until we can get back in the car in real life.”
Webster also admitted the racing simulator was a good way to cope with the pressure of learning remotely during year 12.
“It’s a bit stressful not being able to contact your teachers and having to do everything over the internet,” he said.
“But now at home you can jump on the simulator in between classes, so that’s a bonus.”
Webster, who has been racing go-karts since he was nine years old and competed internationally as a kart driver, said he was intent on continuing to climb through the ranks.
“My goal is to reach the highest level of motorsport in Australia. At the moment that’s V8 Supercars so that’s where I’m aiming,” he said.
“Hopefully we can use this S5000 platform to get my name out, get sponsorships, prove myself against a lot of other drivers that are well accomplished, and hopefully that can give me a pathway up into Supercars.”