In theory it was supposed to be a learning year, a trial step in the world of pro-level motor racing. Before the campaign was over, however, one of the UK’s highest-profile racing titles was in the bag. Some learning year…
“I used to watch when my brother Ollie started karting,” Jamie Chadwick says, “but initially I wasn’t terribly interested. When I was 11, though, I decided to give it a go and was hooked straight away.”
Chadwick went on to compete successfully in club-level karting for two seasons, then in 2012 entered the Ginetta Junior Scholarship – an annual award that assesses youngsters on the basis of driving skills and fitness. She won the main prize, a fully funded race seat for the following year. “I enjoyed two wonderful seasons in Ginetta Juniors,” she says, “and learned a huge amount.”
She also recorded several pole positions and a number of podium finishes, which brings us to 2015, the British GT Championship and a place with the Beechdean Aston Martin Racing team, sharing a GT4-spec Vantage with Ross Gunn, an 18-year-old with a strong karting pedigree and BRDC F4 experience. “The step up was huge,” she says, “but the Ginetta championship was seriously competitive and I’m sure quite a few of my rivals would also have adapted very quickly. I felt comfortable in the GT4 car as soon as I tested it.”
The pair began the year with a brace of second places at Oulton Park – although one of those was taken away after Chadwick was judged to have caused a collision – and they continued with wins at Rockingham and Silverstone, second at Spa and third at Brands Hatch before a fourth and a fifth at Snetterton put the GT4 title beyond rivals’ reach.
Between times, she and Gunn formed part of the winning crew in the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone. “We did that mainly to assist with our British GT programme,” she says, “because it was a chance to spend lots of time in the car.
It was a great experience doing double and triple stints during the night – particularly when the rain was at its heaviest. Those are the toughest conditions I’ve faced in racing. Adapting to the dark wasn’t too much trouble – I knew my way around Silverstone and soon settled into a rhythm. It’s just a matter of trusting your instincts.”
And then, of course, there’s the small matter of A-level studies. “School has been very good about time off for testing,” she says. “I just have to catch up whenever I can. My priority is to complete a good, solid education and combine that with my racing. I’d also like to do a university degree, but I’m keeping an open mind. In the long term I want to work in the motor sport industry, ideally as a driver. If that doesn’t work out I’d like to turn my hand to something else, perhaps in sports science or else on the media side.”
At the time of writing she has no finalised plans for 2016. “It would be nice to defend the GT4 title,” she says, “but I’ve also looked at GT3 options. There isn’t really a fixed GT career path, but I’m in the happy position of having age on my side and don’t need to make huge leaps just yet.”
She and Gunn have also been part of Aston Martin Racing’s Evolution Academy, which is designed to help young drivers on and off the track. “We were allowed to attend a World Endurance Championship round,” she says, “so I put my name down for Le Mans. I did some PR and had an access-all-areas pass to stand in the pits and watch how the team approached the event. That was fabulous.”
Needless to say, she hopes to return soon in a rather more central role…