Rising star Jack Hawksworth emerged as a real contender for the 2011 Formula Renault UK Championship after his performances in the finale of the 2010 Winter Series at Pembrey. The 19 year old took three pole positions and two podium finishes to finish third in the championship standings.
After a good performance last time out at Snetterton, Hawksworth entered the meeting hoping to convert his strong qualifying pace into the race results he deserved. His qualifying prowess continued in the first session of the weekend, in which he coped with the tricky conditions to take a double pole position.
“I had no aims as such,” the 19-year-old admitted. “I just wanted to learn a bit more and gain some further experience, and after qualifying so well at Snetterton, I wanted to make sure my racing was a bit better at Pembrey. I knew we would be quick and would have a decent chance of being near the front in qualifying because the car was really good, but I didn't expect to get pole again. It was unbelievable!”
Race one at the Welsh circuit proved to be eventful affair, but ending up successfully for Hawksworth, seeing him secure his first podium finish.
“The track was drying throughout the day, and by the time of the first race, whilst the left hand-side was completely dry, unfortunately the right hand-side was still wet. That made it really tricky for me at the start. The drivers on the other side of the grid got away cleaner, and I was third into the first corner, which I actually wasn't too disappointed about because it could have been a lot worse.
“After that, it was just about the craziest race I've ever been in! We did two laps and then the safety car came out, and then another three racing laps before it was red-flagged. I took the re-start from third and didn't really have the pace to challenge the top two after that, but I just settled into a rhythm and established quite a decent gap back to fourth, so I always felt comfortable. It was my first podium in cars, which was definitely something I had never expected to do in only my second-ever meeting!”
Things looked to be getting even better in race two, with Jack taking the lead early on and coping with the pressure to lead the opening encounters. However a nudge from behind around mid-distance sent him into a spin, dropping him to a disappointing tenth at the flag.
Hawksworth's qualifying form continued in Sunday's session, with a superb lap in the final five minutes of the session putting him on pole for the day's first race, making it an incredible four pole positions in six races for the rookie. However he was to again suffer problems getting away at the start:
“Unfortunately, that side of the grid was wet again for the race and Richie Stanaway got past me at the start, but I just managed to keep Josh Hill behind. Josh was quite threatening over the first half, but I knew I had a good balance in the car so I was feeling confident and more concerned about trying to catch Richie in the lead.
“As I needed to make up ground, I think I was maybe a bit more forceful in making my way through the traffic in the closing stages than he was. I got really close at the end, but I was still extremely happy to finish second – it was probably the best race I've driven in cars so far, because I was consistent and felt like I didn't make many mistakes.”
With his second best time in the earlier qualifying session only seeing him line up tenth on the grid for the final race, the Mark Burdett Motorsport driver used it as an opportunity to have some fun and build his experience.
“I just wanted to go out there and enjoy myself,” he reflected. “I saw the last race as an opportunity to get some wheel-to-wheel experience – I've not had too much of that in cars yet to be honest, because I've always been starting near to the front!
“I managed to gain three places around the outside into the first corner, which put me seventh. It was really slippery initially, but the track gradually dried and got quicker-and-quicker as more grip became available. That made it all about having the confidence to push the car a little bit harder every lap.”
He impressed throughout the race, coping with the treacherous conditions well to pass series race winner Ollie Millroy for sixth, before nearly passing Winter Series Champion Alex Lynn towards the end.
“It was good fun to be putting some moves on more experienced drivers,” he said. “It was just great to end the weekend with such an exciting race. I really felt like I was racing at the same level as the other guys and I didn't feel out-classed at all.”
His impressive weekend saw him finish third in the championship standings, a great achievement for the series debutant. Performing way above expectations, the youngster has established himself as one to watch in the future.
“It's just amazing!” he enthused. “It couldn't have gone any better – if somebody had offered me that two weeks ago, I would definitely have taken it! The whole experience of racing in the Winter Series has done me the world of good, it's given me a lot of confidence.
“Before this, I was debating whether to do Formula Renault UK or the older BARC class in 2011, but the kind of results we've had mean the decision isn't really that difficult now, so I'll just try to learn as much as possible over the winter and will be a lot stronger for next season to be able to go for the title!”