Hawksworth revved up for the challenge ahead as sponsor forecasts a 'bright future'|
Jack Hawksworth has kick-started his bid to make it back-to-back championship triumphs across the other side of the Pond in 2013, and as he endeavours to cement his reputation as America's brightest young British hope, the gifted Bradford-born speed demon can count on some vital local support.
After shifting his nascent single-seater career stateside in 2012, Hawksworth promptly broke virtually every record in the book en route to clinching the fiercely-contested Star Mazda Championship crown as a US racing rookie. He subsequently stepped things up another gear this year by signing to compete for multiple title-winning operation Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship - just one notch down the ladder from his ultimate IZOD IndyCar Series goal.
The McLaren Autosport Award finalist, British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star and TORGOEN Swiss brand ambassador had the chance to get to grips with his new 'office' during the first official pre-season testing outing around Florida's 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. There, he was able to gauge his potential against a number of the rivals he is likely to encounter in wheel-to-wheel duels over the course of the coming months.
"It was a fantastic opportunity to spend some more time working with the team and to start preparing in the best way possible for the St. Petersburg curtain-raiser next month," Hawksworth revealed. "It was a great integration and relationship-building exercise, since I got to see more of how SPM works and by the same token, they got a better idea of how I work.
"We experimented with some different changes and tweaks to the set-up in order to try and understand the characteristics of the Lights car more and figure out the best way to extract performance from it. Compared to last year, it has quite a lot more horsepower than the Mazda but is also quite a bit heavier; that means it requires a little more patience, but you still need to maintain the same level of commitment.
"There is certainly an art to driving these cars, but being with such a good team means it shouldn't take me long to get up-to-speed. There are highly-skilled individuals across this whole team, and we have a great chance to have a fantastic season."
If the 21-year-old Cullingworth native is confident about his prospects in the light of SPM's experience, expertise and outstanding record in the sport - the last time any other outfit lifted the Indy Lights laurels was in 2009 - then he has also received a timely shot-in-the-arm from back home, as Bingley-based business and education internet solutions firm Exa Networks has thrown its backing behind his quest for glory.
As Hawksworth thanked Exa for its support and forecast 'a great season' ahead together, the company's Head of Projects and Business Solutions, Mark Elders, mused that partnering the former national and international karting ace was a 'no-brainer'.
"I first observed Jack's passion for racing in karts, and his ultimate ambition to become a professional racing driver was a clear indication of his determination from the start," Elders opined. "Having seen him race close-up, I was left in no doubt that he would be a success. The opportunity to sponsor him was a 'no-brainer', and it was with great excitement that we decided to help him where we can. He's a Bradford lad just like us and is a young man starting out on an exciting career path.
"At the same time, Jack is so well-grounded and mature for his age, and with such natural talent it's easy to understand why we all support him. He is a real professional and is always analysing the car and his own performance and communicating with his team to make things better. That's something you don't often see in young drivers.
"This year, he has been given a seat in arguably the best Indy Lights team there has ever been - certainly the most victorious team in the series' history. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has won the past three championships in a row, meaning Jack could not be in any better hands.
"So many people in the business have noticed his exceptional ability, and I'm pretty confident he is going to have an excellent 2013. His longer-term goal is to gain a seat in IndyCars and race in the legendary Indianapolis 500 - and if he is as successful as he was last year, he's going to achieve that objective. For Jack Hawksworth, the future is looking extremely bright!"
Report by Russell Atkins