Drifting and shifting puts Stevenage's Michelle in the fast lane
PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 January 2016
A glamour model is taking on the boys at the racetrack with plans of competing for the top honours this year.
Self-confessed tomboy Michelle Westby had no interest whatsoever in becoming a model when she was a child growing up in Stevenage.
She’s always had a passion for motors, and four years ago at a car show at the Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire the 28-year-old was spotted by modelling scouts and asked to work at the next event.
Michelle, a former pupil of Stevenage’s Longmeadow and Barnwell schools, said: “Shocked I was even asked, and shy about saying yes, I decided to go for it as I had planned to go to the event anyway.
“From working that one car show, other jobs came rushing in. I was extremely lucky as now it’s a very hard scene to get into.”
As well as being a ‘grid girl’ for the British Superbike and British GT championships, Michelle has modelled for the likes of Zoo, Fast Car and Max Power magazines.
She said: “Modelling is a very harsh industry. You can easily be brought down and pushed into things you never wanted to do.
“You need to be thick-skinned and have a strong, confident head on you.”
She added: “A lot of young girls don’t realise that all magazine feature models are airbrushed to look perfect and do not look that way naturally.
“I find it really sad how girls now feel so much pressure to look perfect due to false advertisement and celebrities spending thousands of pounds on plastic surgery to get the prefect look.
“There are very few girls out there now who are completely natural.
“I think we need to go back to appreciating a natural girl-next-door look. To me, that is a million times more attractive.”
Michelle says the highlight of her career so far has been appearing with former Top Gear’s The Stig, Ben Collins, in his DVD Stunt Driver, as well as doing drift demonstrations at major shows at Santa Pod Raceway.
In drifting, drivers deliberately oversteer when taking corners, causing their cars to ‘drift’ around the track.
Michelle, who is sponsored by Garage-D and Owen Developments, explains: “In competitions, drifting is judged on speed, angle, showmanship and line taken through a corner.
“The adrenaline rush you have from drifting is amazing – you are constantly pushing to go harder and faster.
“Now everyone knows me, I’m treated the same as the guys, but when I first started out I felt extremely intimidated and felt more pressure to try and impress so they would take me seriously and not think I’m another girl trying to drift for attention.”
“I have always had an interest in cars and motorsport.
“I remember watching drifting for the first time and my eyes lighting up and having the biggest smile on my face.
“I had a driver invite me to a drift experience day and have a go in his car and from then I was hooked.
“I left that day with plans on how I could save to build my own car and start competing myself.
“It takes a lot of hard work, patience and determination to make it anywhere in the motorsport industry, but my plans are starting to take shape.
“I hope to start getting recognised more for my driving than modelling, and start doing more drift demos and stunt driver work.
“I am also competing in the Drift Cup this year year, as well as Fueltopia Barrel Sprint.”