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Podium at Snetterton as Jack targets end-of-season flourish

Things may not have run entirely like clockwork for Jack Hawksworth in the sixth outing of the 2011 Formula Renault UK Championship at Snetterton, but the talented young Bradford speed demon nonetheless claimed his fourth podium finish of the season to-date to repay his new sponsor's faith in him in style.

Having ably proven himself as one of the fiercely-fought single-seater series' undisputed front-runners over the opening half of the campaign - and having gone into the summer break buoyed by his breakthrough victory at Croft, on his debut for Atech Reid GP - Jack admitted that seven weeks of inactivity had been more than enough, and he was palpably champing at the bit to get back out on-track again at Snetterton, scene of an outstanding pole position on his car racing bow in the 2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Series last November.

"I was probably a bit too refreshed, to be honest!" he quipped. "It had been a really long break, and although I had done a bit of karting in the meantime, I was glad when Snetterton came round. I was feeling really optimistic. It was my second race weekend with the team, and we were so much more prepared than had been the case at Croft.

"The guys at Atech are a great bunch of lads, and I really feel part of the team now - we're very close to putting it all together and being a really strong unit. I was just looking forward to getting some momentum going and kick-starting a title challenge over the second half of the year."

Indeed, not only did Jack feel more settled inside his new surroundings, but he also headed to Norfolk boosted by the support of Swiss watch-maker TORGOEN, which has appointed the highly-rated Cullingworth-based hotshot as a brand ambassador and one of just four members of Team TORGOEN Swiss UK, describing him as 'a driver of huge potential'.

"Partnering with brands like TORGOEN Swiss is exactly what I need at this stage of my career," he enthused. "They are extremely ambitious just like me, and together with TORGOEN Swiss, I hope to speed to the top of the motor racing ladder. I've had a great start to my first year in slicks-and-wings, and this deal is a great boost going into the second half of the season."

Having got to grips with Snetterton's new, longer '300' layout during a test session in May - lapping up at the sharp end throughout - Jack swiftly dialled himself straight back into the groove during practice, his first time in the car since Croft almost two months earlier.

Despite finding himself on the back foot somewhat given that many of his rivals had been racing elsewhere during the break, the 20-year-old nonetheless wasted little time in hauling himself right into the ballpark and he entered qualifying in positive spirits. Unfortunately, handling issues left him just fifth on the grid for the opening encounter.

"We made some set-up changes before the race, and the car felt better than it had done in qualifying," he recounted. "I made a very good start and moved into fourth before we got to the first corner, and then I had really good grip around the first lap.

"My team-mate Tio Ellinas was directly ahead, and he made a mistake coming out of Hamilton Corner and dropped a wheel off the track. I managed to get halfway alongside into the next right-hander, but I backed out of the move midway through the corner because I didn't want to risk an accident - the worst person you can have contact with is your team-mate.

"After that, I made a couple of little mistakes myself and dropped back a bit, but then I set several fastest laps in the middle part of the race; I closed right up onto the back of Tio again, but I just couldn't find a way past. On the penultimate lap, though, the two leaders had a coming-together, which allowed us to get an unexpected one-two finish.

"That was a brilliant reward for the team after all their hard work. Even though we had a bit of luck, I think it was still fully deserved for all the effort we had put in leading up to the weekend. I was more than happy to pick up a trophy, and it was brilliant to kick off my relationship with TORGOEN Swiss with a podium.

"Looking back at the first lap now with Tio, it's always easier with the benefit of hindsight to say, 'perhaps I should have kept my foot in'. I could have had my second race win of the season, but equally, what if he had turned in? It was a split-second decision, and if I had made the move, it could have gone either way - I could have ended up looking like a hero...or an idiot."

Wise words for someone with so little car racing experience under his belt, Jack's prospects for race two took a nosedive when throttle failure at the beginning of qualifying meant he would line up plum last on the grid - a particular penalty in a championship in which overtaking is so notoriously difficult. The second time he has been struck by such mechanical misfortune this season, the ultra-successful former national and international karting star impressively vowed to keep his spirits up - but sadly, his fortunes would not improve any in the race.

"Starting from the back in Formula Renault UK is never easy," he conceded. "You have to push and take a few risks to make up positions. I gained three places on the first lap, but then I had a little bit of a 'moment' in the middle of Williams Corner, which caused me to run ever-so-slightly wide on the exit. There was a tyre barrier right at the edge of the track, but I didn't actually think I was going to hit it; I must have literally just brushed it, and that was enough to drag it into the front of my car and rip the wheel off."

Positioned unusually close to the tarmac, the barrier left no margin at all for error and Jack was not its only victim over the course of the weekend, but with the past three meetings having yielded a podium and a retirement apiece, he acknowledges that next time out at Silverstone, the target must be to claim two strong finishes. And beyond that, he is setting his sights suitably high.

"It was a disappointing way to leave Snetterton," the Yorkshire ace mused in conclusion. "I felt I had prepared for the weekend really well and I had been aiming for two wins, but I can't be too despondent. There were a few things that affected us that we didn't have time to fix, but our pace in the first race was good, and at Silverstone I think we will be quite a bit stronger. I've had some time back in the car now, so hopefully, I can start mixing it for pole positions and wins again.

"We've just got to move on. The target is to start afresh, and I want to win the second half of the championship - I want to score more points than anyone else between now and the end of the season...and if we can start winning some races, then it's not over yet by a long shot."

To see the full collection of TORGOEN Swiss UK watches, visit: www.torgoen.com

Race Report by Russell Atkins
Photos by Jakob Ebrey

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