Michelle Westby does the Barrel Sprint at Santa Pod


Michelle does all the work on the car at the event herself (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle Westby and her Black Nissan 200sx headed to Santa Pod recently to compete in the first round of the 2015 Fueltopia Barrel Sprint.

You may remember the Barrel sprint from the features we ran on it back in 2012. To recap, Barrel sprinting is a race down a short course round three barrels, one of which has to be driven round in the opposite direction. For the initial runs, it’s judged on times until they reduce it to the last 16 and then it’s a head to head knockout to determine the winner.


Michelle had raced in it once before but it was over a year ago and with a large field of experienced drivers she wasn’t sure what to expect from the day but she determined to try and do well. The pressure was added to when the commentator let everyone know about Michelle’s new job as the Santa Pod Drift demo driver. Michelle has absolutely no team behind her at the event and she is her own mechanic. On an ideal day that just involves changing tyres and making setup adjustments but things could get busy if there was a car failure. Her first job of the day was to get the car setup to compete and ready to be scrutineered to make sure it was safe to compete.

Once the cars were scrutineered and passed it was time for practice. This went on for most of the morning and you could do as many runs as you could fit in during the time. Once you’d done your time you’d join the queue for another run.


Michelle put in as many as she could and from the start did consistently clean runs even if they weren’t as fast as she’d hope. But as she kept at it throughout the morning her times gradually dropped until she was on touch with the front runners and hopefully quick enough to make the final 16 after the qualifying runs.

She went into qualifying with more confidence but afterwards she wasn’t so happy;

“I don’t think I’ve placed anywhere, all my runs were rubbish. I maybe had one good one but I don’t think I’ll come anywhere.”

Michelle had been in the first batch of qualifiers so now came the long wait to see how badly (or well!) she had actually done.

When Qualifying was over, the drivers gathered to hear if they had made the final 16 and if so whereabouts. Michelle was still not expecting to place and as the names were read out she wasn’t mentioned at all in the second half of the top 16. Now the top eight, surely Michelle couldn’t possibly be in that?

Seventh place! Michelle was over the moon, she hadn’t been expecting to qualify but had done so in style making the top half of the field with her best time of the day so far!

Driver briefing (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle keeps things tight (photo by Marc Waller)Close racing (photo by Marc Waller)Michelle in the knockouts (photo by Marc Waller)Now the competition would be all about finishing first, but making sure you finish without hitting any barrels or cones. Michelle had been consistently doing clear runs all day unlike many of the other drivers so she stood a chance of going well.

Her first run was against Danny Cross in another Nissan 200sx for a place in the quarter finals. He’s one of the quicker drivers so beating him would be an impressive achievement. As the lights changed to green, they both got a great start and were neck and neck as they went round the first barrel. As they entered the second barrel they were still neck and neck but Michelle started to edge ahead as they headed towards the third. Once round that she was far enough ahead and crossed the line in front. She was through to the quarter finals!
Her next driver she’d be up against was the next battle out, Mark Young in his Toyota Chaser against Justin Clarke in his Nissan 200sx. Young won so Michelle’s quarter final battle would be against him.
Michelle got a great start again and they were neck and neck off the line and through the first barrel. As they went round the second, Michelle’s car gripped a little unexpectedly. With things being so close, this tiny error was enough to give Young the lead. Michelle kept pushing though and caught him rounding the final barrel but Young was still marginally ahead as he crossed the line.

But Michelle had an excellent first round of the barrel sprint and showed that she could go well for the rest of the year with an event win not impossible. She seemed very pleased with her day

“I’m happy with that, I wanted to win a battle and to get as far as I did is a great result for me. I had a really good day and have enjoyed myself. I’m looking forward to the next round.”

If you’d like to join Michelle and compete yourself, you only need a road legal car and a driving licence to start. Michelle has a full drift car but absolutely anything is allowed. For more information you can see the Barrel Sprint website  By Marc Waller

Michelle Westby; From gridding to drifting!


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