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How a rising star uses sim racing to his advantage

Webster has had a somewhat unorthodox motorsport career so far. The 20-year-old started out in karting, securing an Australian KA4 Junior title in 2016 and third place in the Victorian Kart Championship (KA3 Junior) in 2018.

But then he moved into a make-manufacturer’s Hyundai Excel series, the championship for humble hatchbacks in the mid-’90s.

While it’s a vibrant scene, seen as a stepping stone for aspiring drivers, particularly towards touring cars, the move avoided the usual logic of something like Formula Ford for an aspiring single-seater driver.

Stranger still, Webster was then plucked out of the compact tin-top series and placed in S5000 – open-wheelers with a 5.2-liter V8 and wide Hoosier tires. They are unique, but Webster has had success, most notably a race win in 2021, followed by third place in the Australian Drivers’ Championship and second place in the Tasman Series last year.

“The tire doesn’t have much grip at all,” explains Webster in the stormy Donington Park.

“That’s probably the biggest challenge with an S5000 because it makes it harder to brake, accelerate and corner. Watching the cars race is very exciting because they move so much and then roar down the straight because of the engine.

“I think it is awesome. Everyone who jumps in them says they’re a real beast to ride.”

The plan for 2023 is to compete in the current S5000 Championship – a trio of podiums were secured by the Victorian at the inaugural event – but not at every round as this year she will feature a ride in the burgeoning GB4 Championship for the Evans GP team collide .

It’s a ride Webster relocated to the UK for, ending up in Milton Keynes.

“The first thing I noticed was that it was a lot grayer here than in Australia,” Webster jokes.

“Moving to the UK is more stressful for me than racing. I have never done the races that I have been doing for more than 10 years and that I live alone.”

However, the reason for this exact location is not only due to GB4, but because of his involvement in racing. As a member of the Oracle Red Bull Racing esports team, he competes in virtual competitions at the highest level, including the Le Mans Virtual Series and currently iRacing’s Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup.

Cooper Webster, Oracle Red Bull Racing, 2023 iRacing Porsche Esports Supercup

At the time of writing, the Australian is sixth overall and driving as a teammate to former champion and current Red Bull Racing Formula One simulator test driver Sebastian Job.

“The environment is really good and everyone works hard,” says Webster

“That’s what you want on a sim team, everyone to be really focused and motivated.

“No one can do that better than Sebastian. He’s one of the hardest working people I know.”

His connection with the team directly aids in his real-world motorsport endeavors. Moving closer to the team’s base means access to its esports “Erena” to compete in esports events and train for upcoming GB4 races.

He also has access to the fitness facilities and support network of the five-time F1 Constructors Champion, which is invaluable for a younger driver moving to a new country for the first time.

Cooper Webster Oracle Red Bull Racing Esports

“When I first walked into the factory, I was blown away,” Webster enthuses.

“The facilities there and how they build the F1 cars, that’s really amazing.

“When I’m not doing GB4, I’m in the gym or on the simulator at the factory.”

Then there are the racing benefits that come from regular virtual activities. It is often said that simulators are useful for learning new circuits. True, but you learn the most by competing in closely spaced competitive events against veteran rivals.

Cooper Webster 2023, GB4 pre-season testing, Donington Park

“There are some things that translate perfectly between real life and sim racing,” Webster points out.

“Your racing IQ is really important, like deciding when to defend or when to push and being under pressure.

“The pressure you feel in sim racing is the same or even greater than in motorsport.

“Putting you in that position, like going into qualifying and doing that one lap, is exactly the same as in real life. That’s what I find really helps me.

“I think the biggest nervousness I’ve ever had before a race was the simulation. I remember that event clearly – shaky legs and making mistakes.

“The pressure and awareness of what’s around you really helps and I think that’s why I try to put in as much time as possible [as possible] in the simulation when I’m not driving in the real world.”

Cooper Webster, Oracle Red Bull Racing, 2023 iRacing PESC

There is still a steep learning curve ahead of the start of the GB4 season at Oulton Park in April but professional sim racing is helping him find a potential competitive advantage.

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