Jamie Chadwick: “I want to enjoy my racing and be fighting at the front”

Jamie Chadwick’s career has flourished over the last few seasons with her taking two single seater titles in 2019, racing in the MRF Challenge and inaugural season of W Series. Although her career hasn’t always been straightforward, she is hoping next year will bring more success as she enters the revolutionary Extreme E Championship. I spoke to her about this, the highs and lows of motorsport, and why enjoying her racing is so important.

Jamie’s passion for sport began at a young age, though it wasn’t until she was older that motorsport came into her life. “I’ve always been interested in sport, but I didn’t really try my hand at motorsport until I was 12 years old, which is relatively late in the racing world. I just loved it straight away and pursued it as a hobby until eventually it became something I took more seriously,” she said. Just a year after her brother decided he wanted to get involved in motorsport, she too took to the track, with her feeling an instant connection to racing. “My older brother went to a go-karting party and had decided he wanted to become a racing driver. A year or so later, I had my first go in a go-kart. I followed in his footsteps for the first few years before I started going in my own direction. Motorsport just felt completely different. There’s the adrenaline, the competitive side of it, and although it is often seen as individual, it is very much a team sport,” Jamie told me. 

credit: Aston Martin

After only a few seasons of karting, and her brother having made the transition to cars in the Ginetta Junior Championship, Jamie too began thinking about making the step up. “I felt it was the natural progression, but I hadn’t really done that much karting so it wasn’t an obvious choice to make the transition so soon. The Ginetta Junior Championship offered a cool scholarship and with the next step costing a lot more money, it was really going to make a difference to whether I was able to carry on racing. I entered with no expectations and fortunately managed to win it,” the young driver described. In 2015, after just two seasons racing Ginetta Juniors, Jamie’s career took another leap forward as she entered the British GT Championship. Racing in the GT4 category with teammate Ross Gunn, the duo took the championship title. “There was no obvious route for me, it was just about taking the opportunities and enjoying it,” she said. “At that point I didn’t even think it would become a career! The British GT opportunity came and it seemed like a good fit and the support I got from Aston Martin was amazing.”

Having had success in sportscars, Jamie made the transition to single seaters in 2017. After impressive tests with the British F3 Championship, she joined Double R Racing as she began pursuing a different route. “It was a bit of a bizarre transition! I was always asked whether I wanted to reach Formula One, but I felt I’d closed that door. I’d always wondered how I would’ve got on so I did a couple of tests and really enjoyed it. I also felt it was important to get some single seater experience to give me versatility in whatever discipline I chose,” Jamie told me. Although her test event had gone well, her first single seater season wasn’t as straightforward as she had expected. “To be honest, I went into the first year and thought it would be easier than it was, but I don’t think I’d realised just how small the margins were. You have to be on it every day and I just wasn’t at that level. The reliance on the team is a lot higher too, I found I thrived in that environment which paid dividends the next year. I raced with the same engineer and mechanic which really made a difference to the success I was able to have,” she explained.

credit: W Series

Returning to the championship the following year, Jamie improved to take her first British F3, and therefore single seater, victory. This success continued towards the end of the year as she entered the 2018-19 MRF Challenge, achieving her first single seater championship title. Only a few months later, the inaugural season of W Series got underway, with Jamie the favourite, even before racing had started, with her going on to take the title. “There was pressure that came from myself really but I tried to focus on the job at hand. I was strong at the beginning, but it was definitely tough by the end of the year. I guess me being the one to beat came from the fact I had had the most recent experience. My preparation was good, I came straight from winning the MRF Challenge and confidence was high,” she told me. W Series’ second season was due to take place this year, however, was postponed to 2021. Though there is good news, as it was announced in November that the series will race alongside eight Formula One Grands Prix from next year. Speaking of this, Jamie said: “the platform was already big, the exposure it gave me personally was huge. It’s been lifechanging, career changing! Next year is going to be another step. It’s really exciting to see how everyone has progressed and get the opportunities that many have gotten.”

With W Series returning next year, Jamie will also be racing in the new Extreme E Championship. Launched in 2019, Extreme E will visit some of the most remote parts of the world, raising awareness of the effects of climate change. After a difficult season in the Formula Regional European Championship this year, she is hoping this fresh start will also help her progress in other series. “Prema are the team to be with, so what I learnt through them was huge, but sadly we couldn’t quite get the results. I feel like I’ve let myself and a lot of people down and there’s a lot of factors that go into that, but ultimately, I need to make sure they don’t affect next year. I want to enjoy my racing and be fighting at the front and I think we’re capable of that,” Jamie said. However, this does mean that she will be very busy and will have to juggle several types of motorsport. “I will be adding another championship too, but being busy is part of being a racing driver. For me, it’s important to be versatile. It’ll be good to have a fresh mindset going into the different championships; I’m hoping to bounce back with a strong campaign,” the W Series champion explained.

credit: PHG UK Agency

Although she has experience in sportscars and single seaters, off-road racing, as in Extreme E, is not something that she has done a lot of. However, she has been enjoying learning this new style. “I think I lied and said I did (have experience), but I don’t! I’ve done a little bit of rally school training and a bit of ice driving, but really… that’s about it. I did the test a few weeks ago and loved every minute,” Jamie described. Having joined the Veloce Racing Extreme E team, she will be the team’s female driver, with each team requiring both a male and female competitor. “I’ve been involved with Veloce for a long time now and I’ve heard all about Extreme E from the very beginning through the team. I’ve always had my ear to the ground, but it wasn’t until the team needed a female driver that it really became an open conversation. I’m not from an off-road background and so I didn’t really pitch myself. To have that opportunity for next year is really exciting,” she said.

Much of what Extreme E’s inaugural season will entail is unknown, which makes preparing for it a little tricky. However, Jamie is focussing on being ready for whatever the championship will throw at her. “We’re trying to do as much research as we can but there’s a lot that we just can’t prepare for. From my side, the preparation is getting the best understanding of the terrain and then getting my experience level up. It’s looking like a lot of desert surfaces so I think it’s going to be who can adapt quickest,” she explained. A unique part of Extreme E is its sustainable message, and is a factor that attracted Jamie to the series. However, this does mean that those involved get few opportunities to test the cars. “Anything we can do to raise awareness in a sport that notoriously hasn’t got the best reputation is a factor for me. I’ve learnt so much being a part of this championship. It’s exciting to have that messaging around climate change, but also gender equality which is obviously close to my heart. I’m also used to having a lot of testing. However, with this, we will get in, get a few laps and then have to be as quick as possible, so that will be completely different territory,” Jamie told me.

With a varied racing career already at the age of just 22, Jamie has multiple championship victories behind her, though it’s not always the wins that are her highlights. “Some of my proudest moments are not necessarily the obvious ones. When I won the MRF Challenge last year, that was definitely a big moment, maybe because it was my first single seater championship victory,” she said. Looking to the future, she is unsure where her career will lead, though there is an ultimate aim. “I take everything as it comes, it seems that’s what I continually do, but Formula One is the goal. There is a long way to go yet and a lot to achieve before I get anywhere near that. I’m focussing on enjoying my racing and doing everything I can and ultimately, what will be, will be,” Jamie described.

Loving her racing is extremely important to Jamie with her saying: “enjoying it is everything to me”. Although she knows the importance of getting results, she believes “if you don’t enjoy it… there’s too much pressure”. “I know I’m at a professional level where I effectively get paid to do it, so it’s not just about having fun, but if you don’t enjoy it and love what you do, there’s too much pressure. Although it’s seen as a sport that is everyone’s dream, it’s super tough and you are really committing a huge amount to it. To get results is so hard and realistically, you’re not going to win every race, and have to go with the highs and the lows. If you’re not enjoying it, the lows feel really low. Next year is going to be really exciting to go in with a fresh approach so I’m really looking forward to it,” she told me. This is also part of her advice for anyone wanting to get involved in motorsport, with Jamie saying: “firstly, enjoy it! Don’t turn away anything, there are so many opportunities in this sport now, and there is no real trodden path for the way to go. It’s a tough sport to make it in, so you have to love it and really push hard.”

Heading photo credit: PHG UK Agency/ Carl Gurdjian