Michelle Westby; From gridding to drifting!


Focused behind the wheel (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle Westby is someone that’s heavily involved in motorsport from more than one aspect.

On one side, she’s a grid and promo girl, being seen on grids for BTCC, British GT and Superbikes as well as regularly appearing at shows for Maxxis, a tyre company, plus many other promotional jobs. But she’s also a competitor in motorsport, competing in the relatively new sport of drifting as well as the Fueltopia Barrel Sprint events. On top of this she has a full time job as a project co-ordinator for a major company. We caught up with her at the first round of the Fueltopia Barrel Sprint to get her views on competing and gridding.


GR: Hi Michelle, Firstly we’re curious to know, which came first? Did you get into cars through doing gridding etc or did you become interested in motorsport first and then become a grid girl?
Michelle: I’ve always been in to cars ever since I was a toddler, I wasn’t your typical girl wanting Barbie dolls, I was after toy cars and Hot Wheels sets. As soon as I passed my driving test I wanted a Toyota MR2 which I got not long after passing, I did a few track days and I really got the buzz for racing. After attending a few car shows I started to get offered work at other events. For me, to get paid to be at a show was a big bonus. From there all the other modelling and grid girl work came along.

Michelle with her 200sx (photo by Marc WallerMichelle competeting (photo by Marc Waller)I then worked for EDC (European Drifting Championship). It was here I saw drifting for the first time and it was like love at first sight. I was lucky enough to get a passenger ride by Pete Barber and from then on I knew this is what I wanted to do. I then had a friend offer me a practice in his car at a “Drift what you Brung” session at Santa Pod and then I was hooked. With the weekend work I was getting through modelling, it helped me buy and build my [Nissan] 200sx. I really appreciated every job I got as this meant I had more money to go to as many drift events as possible. It certainly isn’t a cheap Sport!

GR: You’re very busy with doing Drifting, the barrel sprint, grid girling as well as having a weekday job, how do you fit it all in?
Michelle: I don’t know really, a lot of people ask that! I literally don’t stop, if I’m not working 7 days a week I am drifting. It’s all worth it though.

GR: You’ve recently been announced as Santa pod’s official Drift demo driver which is exciting news. How did that come about?

Michelle: I guess this is a question for Santa Pod really. I am guessing they have seen me at drift events and my social media pages so they could see I was capable of putting on a show, and with being a girl, we hope it will bring more publicity in and entice more girls to join the motorsport industry. I’m very excited to have this opportunity though.

GR: So when can people see you in the demo car?
Michelle: If you take a look at the Santa Pod website or the “Drift what you brung “ website you’ll see all the dates I will be attending. More dates maybe announced so keep a close eye out!

GR: So what are your long term ambitions for Motorsport?
Michelle: To be honest I am currently doing all that I originally dreamt off, doing drift demos at shows was a dream and competing was always my goal and I am doing both. All there is to do now is keep on gaining more seat time and improve wherever I can to get on the podiums! I want to start getting a trophy collection! [Michelle smiles!]

GR: Have you found you’ve made any useful contacts while doing promo/gridding that have helped with your motorsport stuff?
Michelle: No I wouldn’t say that, I’d say I have gained more followers due to the modelling and drifting but when I am working I am solely working . I have met good contacts through my drift days and competition days.

GR: What’s your favourite thing about gridding and promotions work?
Michelle: The social aspect, I enjoy meeting and interacting with people. All the girls and teams I get to work with are always a laugh, there is never a dull moment at a race event. I also love being so close to the action, no better feeling then being a part of a team and willing them on to victory.

Michelle with her British GT team (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle having fun on the Maxxis stand at a show (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle ready to go on the grid (photo by Marc Waller)





GR: A lot of the people that are anti grid girls say that one of the reasons they want rid of them is because they think that it puts off women from being involved in motorsport. As someone who is a grid girl and also a competitor what do you feel about that theory?
Michelle: Personally I don’t understand how Grid Girls would put off girls getting into the sport. For me the only thing that I found intimidating at first was the fact it usually is mainly men in the sport so I felt I had a lot more pressure on me to do well. That said I can’t speak for other people’s feelings. They may have a different opinion if they had the opportunity to meet the girls.

GR: How would you feel if gridding was stopped?
Michelle: I would be disappointed for obvious reasons as it would mean I wouldn’t be able to fund as many drift events. I would also miss all the girls and teams I work with as we are from all over the UK so meeting up isn’t so easy.

GR: So will you be back gridding anywhere this year?
Michelle: Yes I will be back on the grid this year, follow my pages to see what events I will be at closer to the time as new dates are coming in every week. At the moment I can confirm I am doing most of the BSB events with Maxxis and most of the British GT with Fox Motorsport that do not clash with my drift events.

GR: What do the other girls think about your motorsport?
Michelle: They all are really supportive which is good, I’ve even thought about having my own grid girl! [Michelle laughs!]

GR: What are your motorsport plans for this year?
Michelle: At the moment I am unable to say as I am still in discussions about things, so watch this space!

GR: Finally what advice would you give to other women looking to compete in motorsport?
Michelle: I would say do not let the pressure get to you, being a male dominated sport you will find yourself putting more pressure on yourself than is needed. Just stay motivated and determined, you can do anything if you set your mind to get it. It just takes dedication and commitment.


Thanks for talking to us today Michelle and good luck for the season!   By Marc Waller

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