After sensationally topping the timesheets during his maiden test in the series, Jack Hawksworth has been swiftly snapped up for a campaign across the pond in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship with front-running outfit Team Pelfrey.
After finishing fourth in his rookie car racing campaign in the 2011 CERTINA Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship, Bradford-based Hawksworth was offered a chance to test with Florida-based Team Pelfrey at Indianapolis earlier this winter.
The 20 year old may have only had four hours track time in two days stateside, but he made is count, as he explains: “I began thinking casually about going to America back during my karting days and we started considering it more seriously midway through this year. A fresh start is what I've been needing, and it's possible to forge a real career path over there, which is a major attraction.
“I went there with an open mind and no real expectations – and both the track and the car were totally different to anything I'd been used to before. Indianapolis is one of the most iconic circuits in the world. It's mind-blowing to drive; you've really got to respect the track and the drivers around you, because the speeds are just crazy!
“The Star Mazda is amazing, too – really, really enjoyable. Under braking, it barely moves at all – it's so stable. You have a bit more to think about than in the Formula Renault, and it's consequently not quite as easy to drive – you have to hustle it a little bit – but I clicked with it really quickly. Once I had adapted to the style of driving required, I worked with the team and we made some improvements and everything just came together. I knew I had to impress to secure a drive in Star Mazda next year, and I set a really good lap time by the end, without even being fully up-to-speed. There's still more to come.”
Hawksworth got to grips with the single-seater quickly and certainly turned heads of all those watching, heading straight to the top of the timesheets by a mammoth four tenths of a second. With the audition going perfectly, it was no surprise that barely a week later, the deal for a full time deal was done.
The BRDC Rising Star commented: “Following the test, the momentum snowballed and we had an offer from practically every single team, which was pretty amazing, but it was always my number one choice to go with Team Pelfrey and I'm thrilled to have signed up to compete for such a successful operation.
“I really like the way Team Pelfrey work, their preparation is excellent and it's good to be in such a professional environment. Right from the start, they understood me and I understood them – we worked really well together and moved forward productively. We just gelled.
“It's great to get everything sorted out so nice and early, too; everybody has worked really hard since the test to make this happen, and the cards all fell into place. It means my mind will be settled over the winter now, and we can hopefully hit the ground running right from the start of next season. I feel like I'm in a much better place than this time last year, I can't wait to get back in the car and I believe we can carry our testing form forward into 2012.”
Team Pelfrey team manager Geoff Fickling added: “We are delighted to welcome Jack to Team Pelfrey. He is exactly the type of driver our team looks for – quick, intelligent, dedicated and easy to work with. It's great that he's made the decision to pursue a career of it in the States, and we look forward to great things this coming year and feel that Jack has an extremely bright future within the Mazda Road to Indy.”
Hawksworth, who wants to follow in the footsteps of Nigel Mansell, Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon with American success, concluded: “This is a big opportunity and a massive step for me. Yes, it is a leap into the unknown in some respects, but at the same time, the structure is there to move forward and I feel comfortable with it all. It's hugely exciting, and hopefully my career can really take off from here. The Star Mazda grid numbers are usually pretty healthy – the standard is really high and it certainly won't be an easy challenge – but I'm not bothered how many drivers are out there, to be honest, because whether I'm competing against ten or 30, I just want to win!”