On-form Hawksworth speeds ahead in Star Mazda rankings with second victory in as many races|
Jack Hawksworth has raced clear of his rivals in the chase for the 2012 Star Mazda Championship crown with his second victory in swift succession since relocating Stateside this year - leaving the talented young Bradford-born speed demon toasting an 'awesome' start to his new adventure the other side of the Pond.
Having stunned onlookers and his adversaries alike by triumphing on his maiden Star Mazda appearance in the St. Petersburg curtain-raiser in Florida a week earlier - opening up a ten-point advantage in the title standings in the process - Jack travelled to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama bidding to extend that margin.
"Following our results at St. Petersburg and our performance in the pre-season group test at Barber, I was feeling confident," reflected the highly-rated Cullingworth hotshot, who incredibly has only one prior campaign of car racing under his belt. "After the first practice session, we saw we were right up there again, so then it was just a case of doing the best job we could. Barber is an enjoyable track to drive, with a lot of elevation changes. It's very hard on tyre wear, too, so you need to know when to push and when not to push."
In contrast to St. Petersburg, where Jack had found himself on the back foot due to not having been able to test there beforehand, Barber represented much more of a level playing field. After pronouncing himself happy with his 260bhp, Team Pelfrey-run single-seater during dry practice on Thursday, when the heavens opened in time for qualifying the following day, he and his 19 fellow Star Mazda competitors suddenly found themselves plunged into the unknown.
Quick to praise his team's efforts in preparing his #82 machine to perfection for the distinctly different climatic conditions, the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star was equally quick to find the grip on the newly-sodden track surface. If it was the first time he had ever driven the car in the wet, you would have been hard-pressed to tell as he adapted magnificently to scythe his way through the spray to pole position for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
With the weekend's two races both taking place under rather sunnier skies two days later, Jack fairly stormed away in the opening encounter, leaving his pursuers trailing in his wheeltracks in a truly dominant display that saw him take the chequered flag almost seven seconds to the good.
"I had an awesome car underneath me, and I pushed really hard over the first few laps to open up a gap," he recounted. "I was able to manage the pace really easily, and after that, it was just a case of making sure I looked after my tyres and bringing it home.
"Everything came together perfectly, and we were the quickest on every single lap. It was a very different race to the one I had won at St. Petersburg, which had been repeatedly broken up by caution periods and safety cars - and to win by the margin that we did just underlines the great job the team did to give me such a good car."
Fastest lap earned the former national and international karting star pole position again for race two, but a few minor set-up changes failed to pay off and caused Jack to concede ground in the initial stages, before grittily fighting his way back to hound the leader over the closing laps and clinch the runner-up spoils.
With almost a two-month hiatus now before the next event - the 'Night Before the 500' at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, just 24 hours prior to the legendary Indy 500 and the first of two consecutive oval outings on the 2012 Star Mazda schedule - the TORGOEN Swiss brand ambassador holds a 29-point championship lead, leaving him bullish about his prospects looking ahead.
"It's really nice to go into the break with a decent points advantage," he enthused. "It's a great feeling. I think anybody would be happy with the start to the season we've had; two wins, two second places, three pole positions and four fastest laps - it doesn't get much better than that, and it's a good confidence-builder as well.
"We've got a group test at Lucas Oil Raceway which will hopefully allow me to get up-to-speed. Oval racing will definitely be a challenge for me and another new experience, but from what I've heard, it's a lot of fun! Team Pelfrey had a really good record on oval courses last year, too, so there's no reason why we can't go into them with as good a chance as anybody else.
"The team and I are just over-the-moon about our performance so far, but we know we still need to keep working as hard as we can. The minute you start taking the results for granted, they'll stop coming. Fortunately, Team Pelfrey is a very professional organisation, and even though the level of competition in this series is very high, I'm confident that I'll have a winning car every time I roll out on-track."
You can keep up-to-date with Jack's latest career news on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Jackhawk91
To follow Team Pelfrey's fortunes, go to www.team-pelfrey.com whilst for more information on the Star Mazda Championship, see www.starmazda.com
Race Report by Russell Atkins
Photos by Eric McCombs