Friday, December 7, 2012
Norfolk has a new world champion after teenage karting star Harry Webb won the Rotax Grand Finals at Portimao in Portugal.
The annual event – also known and regarded as the World Finals due to the global entry it attracts – saw the 15-year-old from Topcroft, near Bungay, beat more than 70 competitors on his way to victory in the fiercely contested Junior Max class.
The reigning European champion admitted he had taken “the tough route to the podium” having almost missed the timed qualifying session due to engine issues. But a last-minute change of engine saw him able to take to the circuit with seconds to spare before the officials closed it off and he went on to set a second-fastest time overall. Webb had been leading the first of his three qualifying heats when, on the last lap, he was knocked off the circuit by a rival. But he bounced back in style to win the remaining races and qualified ninth on the grid for the first of the two finals.
Unfortunately, he was caught up in separate collisions in the first two corners of the first final’s opening lap.
“I got going again and was in 18th place, or thereabouts but crashed again,” he said. “This put me down to the back of the field and in the time remaining I could only claw my way back up to 22nd at the finish.”
With the grid positions for the Grand Final taken from the drivers’ finishing positions in the previous race, Webb started from the 11th row – but with just 18 laps of the Algarve circuit to go he needed to take every single opportunity that presented itself if he was to stand even the merest chance of a podium finish.
He duly delivered a staggering drive and was leading with seven laps to go, having passed all but ten of the 32-strong field.
“I was confident I could do it,” he said. “In the pre-final I was some three to four tenths of a second faster than most and so I could use my pace to pass people. It wasn’t easy but you’ve just got to get on with it.”
As he approached the chequered flag, Webb recalls thinking: “I’ve done it but I can’t really believe it!”
Harry’s father, Steve, himself a former European karting champion, was acting as Harry’s mechanic and proudly watched his son eclipse his own accomplishments.
But Webb reveals he gave his dad some anxious moments, saying: “After the first race he wasn’t happy – but he was after the Grand Final! That I came from so far back to win was very special for him.”
Webb plans to continue his karting career next year, but hopes that his Grand Finals and European successes will put him in the motor racing shop-window and attract the attention of major team bosses.
“Hopefully people will know who I am now,” he said. “It was my first go at the World Finals and to win it first time is amazing. So it would be nice if this launches a professional racing career for me.”