Cameron, aged 16, entered a race series this year, he never even stepped foot in a go-kart and he’s learnt everything on a games console with a steering wheel! That’s right folks.. Gran Turimso! But, Cameron’s journey into motorsport is likely representative of the future, and to be honest it’s already turning out winning professional drivers.
All the race craft picked up from karting hasn’t been missed, the racing lines, breaking points, overtaking has pretty much been learned on the sim!
Cameron grew up on the Isle of Man, but moved to France with his family when he was 11. Like the majority of us, he was fascinated by cars and engineering growing up, itching to get into motorsport, but with the sheer amount of time, prep and money needed to actively get involved, and with the move abroad – it took a back seat. But Cameron found E-Sports and all he needed was a console and a game. “I started with Need for Speed – not the most technically advanced driving game, but it was a start”. After spending after school practicing he his Forza racing team went on to come 10th in the international Virtual Le Mans 24 hours.
“Up until this point I was just racing using the controller so I stepped up the game again, got my first steering wheel set up and bought Assetto Corsa for the PC. I learned heel and toe, trail braking and catching oversteer and actually the online community were really helpful in teaching me racing etiquette, things like stay consistent on lap time, pushing when you need to, saving tyres, all the little things you can transfer over to real racing”.
With his dad now sourcing a MK2 Golf for the track, it was time to learn how to drive on the road. “In France there is a scheme where you can drive from 15 on ‘L’ plates with someone in the passenger over 25, so with the money I have from being an apprentice mechanic I bought myself a Mk4 Golf. Driving on the road was a big learning curve for me and obviously gave me some real driving skills, but I still used the sim to practice heal and toe, just because I’d rather not do that with my mum in the car, the sim is much safer”
To start Cameron’s racing career late last year Cameron and his dad bought a 1989 VW Golf GTI to compete in the Historic Tour Championship. “My dad, Phil, used to race himself and coached for a while at Palmer Sport so he was just as excited to get me out racing”. This is where Phil has filled in some of the gaps, “My dad has taught me a lot about the prep, the professionalism in racing, although he didn’t believe in sims at first, but I think he’s coming around to it!”. Even with some of this knowledge, Cameron couldn’t be newer – he’s never raced competitively and the only time he’d been in a car was learning to drive on the road.
In 2020 Cameron entered the Young Timers GTI Cup, (part of the wider Historic Tour Championships) aimed at those who are new to racing and drive GTI based road cars. All cars have to be between 1.6 and 2 litres and have to be built prior to 1990. “Luckily for us ours is a 1989 1.8 litre 16 valve MK2 Golf GTI, so we’ve got a decent car”. The class is made up of only 5 drivers, all the cars are fairly matched with Cameron competing against a Renault 5, Peugeot 205 and some other golfs.
Cameron and Phil needed to modify the car so it was ready for racing and with the help of some sponsors they managed to get everything done in time for the first practice of the year. “Passion Auto France gave us a new seat, they sponsor us, we got four new tyres, some safety modifications and we were away. I pay half the entry fees which is the deal I have with my parents”. There are strict homologation sheets and the modifications are extremely limited, “we always stick to the rules, better to be 2nd behind a cheater than come first and have cheated. No point in doing that for your career and growth”.
The first race on the calendar was Circuit De Charrade, so Cameron put a casual 164 hours of practice in on the Assetto Corsa sim!
After one track day, it was time for race day. “We had an issue with the fire extinguisher so we couldn’t actually practice so went straight into the first race”. “I’m the new kid on the block, I’ve never driven in a pack before, I couldn’t be newer”
In France all racing events have been back on since June, but everyone from the paddock onwards has to wear a mask at all times. “The paddock is considered one building in France so we all have to have masks on, but as long as we race it doesn’t bother me”.
Circuit de Charade – “We were first cars out for qualifying all day at 8:15. After the rain fall we had overnight the track was damp, but we went for a dry setup on the car and it worked. My heart was beating out of my chest when I was lining up to go out, I just remembered thinking, just put into practice what you’ve learned on the sim, you know the car from the first track day, just get into a rhythm and you’ll be fine! I qualified P13 but after two cars didn’t start I started P11 and 2nd in class.”
“The start of the race went well. I got off the line extremely well but got boxed in on the inside and lost 6 places in turn 1. Then, through turn 2, I was still boxed in as I turned into the corner causing me to lose place all the way to turn 5. Going down into the bottom hairpin, I put 2 wheels onto the grass and unfortunately lost control of the car and hit the gravel trap. The marshalls let me go back out on track after pulling me out of the gravel with a tele-handler and I got in front of the safety that I caused. Then I drove as quick and as consistently as I could to try and catch up. But it was too late. I pulled back 1 minute 30 seconds on the car ahead but I needed more. But seen as there were only 3 cars in my class after the 309 GTI from Mahtez Racing Team blew up in qualifying. I came in a respectful P3.”
We think that’s absolutely brilliant at Race Collective, hats off to you Cameron. So not bad for a 16 year old who has learned most of what he knows on the sim!
There are a few more rounds of the championship left this year and you can follow Camerons progress by following his social media @camhwsracing on Instagram.
In a wider context, Cameron is taking his racing very seriously, his sights are firmly set on getting within the top 3 this year and continuing to improve next year – where we hope the racing across the globe will be uninterrupted by rouge pandemics. “I’ve been given an opportunity to test in a Formula Ford at the end of the year and I’ve also got a few sessions booked with an instructor, which is really exciting.” The main targets for him are to get some sponsorship for next year, to do every championship round and to look at getting into an endurance series in a more powerful car. “I’m dedicated to improving and I really want to take this up as a career, I’m serious about going further and I’d love to get into GT Endurance racing, that’s my goal”.
Cameron has a few shout outs. One of the events he will be attending this year and one that is close to his heart is the Five Hundred Ferrari’s Against Cancer. “I’ve lost a few friends and family members to Cancer and it’s a chance to raise some money for cancer, show off the Golf and watch some great cars”
I’d really like to thank… my family for being so supportive abd Passion Auto France and SC Design for sponsoring me.
Cameron Hawes 16 year old sim racer takes on his first season in racing Cameron, aged 16, entered a race series this year, he never
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