Jack Hawksworth will graduate to the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition in 2014, after signing a contract to drive the No.98 Honda-powered Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) entry in the IndyCar Series.|
Hawksworth took the States by storm in 2012, when he sped to the fiercely-contested Star Mazda Championship crown at the end of a record-breaking rookie campaign across the other side of the Atlantic. He added to that with three race victories, six podium finishes and a title tilt one step further up the 'Mazda Road to Indy' ladder in Firestone Indy Lights last year, and his eye-catching performances brought the gifted young Bradford-born ace to the attention of a number of leading IndyCar teams.
After turning many a head with his form and composure during a couple of winter test outings, Hawksworth took to the wheel of BHA's 650bhp Dallara single-seater at Sebring International Raceway in Florida last month. Impressing with his mature approach and turn-of-speed, as the erstwhile McLaren Autosport Award finalist packed his bags to return home to the UK, he could only hope that he had done enough to ensure the team felt he was the right man for the drive.
With the ink on the contract now dry, the Yorkshireman - who is supported by Holman Wilfley, Sparco USA, Exa Networks, Core Pilates and Arai Helmets - admits that he is eager to get to work with Herta, BHA's eponymous founder and co-owner.
The former IndyCar race-winner acknowledged the magnitude of Hawksworth's achievement in climbing to the top of the 'Mazda Road to Indy' staircase - describing it as testament to his raw talent and sheer determination and forecasting great things from his new charge over the coming months.
"Quite frankly, Jack really impressed us with a very strong test in Sebring last month," remarked Herta. "He has had success at every level he has competed in to date and we believe he has the skills to maintain that going into the IndyCar Series. Jack is well aware of the level of competition he is stepping into and we look forward to the season ahead."
Indiana-based BHA has established itself as a competitive proposition in US open-wheel circles since it entered the fray in 2009, tallying a notable triumph in the iconic Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon three years ago. Hawksworth's new IndyCar challenge will rev into life at St. Petersburg in Florida at the end of March, kick-starting an intensive five-month schedule of flat-out competition - all of which will be broadcast in his native UK on BT Sport.
"I'm tremendously happy to be racing for Bryan Herta Autosport in the 2014 IndyCar Series," reflected the highly-rated Cullingworth star, who turned 23 only days before putting pen to paper. "We enjoyed a very positive first test at Sebring, which has given us an excellent foundation upon which to build our campaign. There's a lot of ability and potential inside this team, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it and look forward to an exciting year ahead.
"I have to say a big 'thank you' to Bryan and all at BHA for placing their trust in me, and to my management team WH Sports Group and everybody else who was involved in putting the programme together. It's just unbelievable, and it still doesn't feel quite real - it's been an incredible journey!
"This is where everything gets serious, but I'm convinced the BHA guys will give me a great car and I can't wait to get going! This is what I've been working so hard towards ever since I moved to America at the end of 2011. Not many people get this kind of shot at chasing their dream and really making it happen, and I'm absolutely delighted."
Report by Russell Atkins