Hawksworth experiences the joy of six with tremendous Trois-Rivieres triumph|
Jack Hawksworth concluded the Canadian leg of his 2012 Star Mazda Championship campaign with what was indubitably his most dominant success of the season so far - meaning the US racing rookie will head into the final five encounters with a healthy 41-point lead in the title standings.
Having left his rivals eating his dust with a magnificent victory double in Toronto and chalked up win number five of his stateside adventure a fortnight later in Edmonton, Hawksworth travelled to Quebec for the prestigious Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres seeking to further stamp his authority on proceedings. Right from the outset, the talented young Bradford-born speed demon would do precisely that.
"It's an awesome street circuit, really fun and probably the most technical one I've been to so far over here," he enthused. "It's tight-and-twisty, too, which demands absolute precision and means you never get much time to rest or catch your breath - it's just corner, corner, corner, and bumpy and narrow with lots of elevation change. We got down to the pace pretty quickly during practice, though, and whilst there was only one 30-minute session, we ended up quickest by a decent margin."
Not only that, but Hawksworth's best effort in his #82 Team Pelfrey single-seater was underneath the official Trois-Rivieres lap record, and he duly followed that up by going even faster again to seal his seventh PEAK Performance Pole Position of the year in qualifying.
From there, the 21-year-old British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star utterly dominated race one, with a peerlessly consistent drive enabling him to pull out a staggering 24-second margin over his closest pursuer by the time the chequered flag fell. In a different league to any of his adversaries, he justifiably rated it as one of the best performances of his increasingly impressive career.
"Team Pelfrey gave me a supremely well-balanced car all weekend, and in that race, it couldn't have been more perfect," Hawksworth confessed. "That's critical at Trois-Rivieres, because the roads that make up the circuit are so heavily crowned that a foot one way or another in apexing a turn can completely change the balance of the car. I was able to knock off consistent lap times whilst looking after the tyres, and it was brilliant to get the win!"
From pole position once more, race two looked set to yield a carbon copy of that outcome as the highly-rated Cullingworth hotshot sprinted away from the opposition to establish a ten-second lead, but a torrential downpour not long after the halfway mark brought out the red flags. When the action resumed with the entire field now on wet-weather rubber, the championship pace-setter found himself caught out by the treacherous conditions, resulting in an uncharacteristic error that left him to limp home in a lowly 12th place.
"I was able to pull out a decent lead before the heavens opened," Hawksworth related, "but after the re-start, I was struggling for grip and could tell the driver behind me was quicker in the wet. He got past me and then we battled for a while.
"I continued pushing to try to regain the lead, but I made a mistake under braking for Turn Six, locked up and hit the tyre wall, which left me with no front wing and bent suspension. That was obviously extremely disappointing, especially for all the boys in the team who deserved so much better, but I'll live and learn."
Notwithstanding the TORGOEN Swiss brand ambassador's first real driving mistake of the season, he still set the race's fastest lap - his tenth of the campaign - and by more than a third of a second for good measure, ensuring that he remains very much the man to beat as Star Mazda races towards its 2012 denouement.
Moreover, having converted a four-point deficit following his mechanically-induced Iowa DNF in June into a 41-point advantage in the chase for the coveted crown, Hawksworth is palpably revved up to return to the top step of the podium when hostilities resume at the Grand Prix of Baltimore in support of the high-profile IndyCar and American Le Mans Series' at the beginning of September.
"I'll work hard to come back stronger and faster at Baltimore, and I won't make the same mistake twice!" he asserted. "Trois-Rivieres was another superb weekend pace-wise and the team was flawless once again; that can only bode well for the upcoming races, and better still, all three circuits should be right up our alley.
"With the speed we've shown recently, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to extend our lead at Baltimore. The most important thing is we've got the pace - we didn't lose race two at Trois-Rivieres by not being quick enough, we lost it due to a mistake on my part and the weather throwing a curve ball. There's no cause for concern. Just bring it on!"
Race Report by Russell Atkins
Photos by Eric McCombs