Jack Hawksworth is ready to start winning in the 2011 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship after a strong weekend at Donington Park, which he has described as the 'turning-point' in his season. The Mark Burdett Motorsport driver took two fourth place finishes on the road, before the latter was turned into a podium after disqualifications for rivals.
The Bradford-based racer endured a frustrating opening weekend at Brands Hatch, with illness hampering his debut in car racing. He came to Donington looking to make a real improvement and good performances in qualifying saw him take fourth and third on the grid for the two races, less than a quarter of a second off the front row.
He commented: “I was a lot more confident than I had been at Brands Hatch. I was feeling much better, for a start, and we were optimistic that we would be able to step it up and do a better job than we had done there.”
“I'd never been to Donington before, but it's a nice track and all medium and high-speed corners – it's a lot of fun to drive on an all-out qualifying lap! There are a lot of gradient changes, which I like, and it's quite on-the-edge. It's challenging, but I gelled with it pretty quickly and we were second-quickest in the first practice session.”
“I expected a little bit more from the first qualifying session, if I'm honest; we didn't have the pace we thought we were going to have, so we changed a few things set-up wise for second qualifying and the team did a really good job. Those changes took us in the right direction and the car felt a lot better.”
“Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes on my quickest lap which probably cost me second place, but I was much happier with the car, and everything was just night-and-day compared to Brands Hatch. We were right up there with the top guys, and we knew we could do even better on Sunday.”
Race one saw a great run for Hawksworth, setting a great pace as he challenged for a podium place, though he eventually had to settle for a fourth place finish, setting a new lap record in the process.
The 20 year old said: “We changed a few more things and made a big step forward on Saturday night. Suddenly, everything we had been aiming for and how I had imagined the car should be, all came together. I was able to drive the way I wanted to drive and the way the team wanted me to drive – everything was just so hooked-up.”
“Unfortunately, my start wasn't great, and it's so hard to overtake around Donington in Formula Renault – but our pace was really good in the race, and I very nearly got Olly Rowland for third across the finish line. He started to back off over the last lap, and once I saw that, I really ramped up the pressure to see if I could force him into a mistake and make him crack. He then overshot the last chicane, which allowed me to get a great run on him along the pit straight and pull alongside.”
“It was a shame the finish line wasn't just a little further down the straight, because if it had been, we would have got the position – but in truth, it's so early in the championship that there's not a massive difference in finishing third or fourth.”
Race two saw Hawksworth one again finish fourth on the road, after his progress was hampered by a mystery car problem. Post-race, a double disqualification for rivals ahead of him saw him promoted to second overall, his second podium of the season, leaving him third in the championship standings, twenty points off the top.
Reflecting on the race, he said: “I made a really good getaway off the line, but Alex Lynn tried to squeeze me onto the grass – he left me absolutely no room at all, so I had to come off the throttle; at this stage of the season, you can't really afford to have a DNF, so I backed out of it. I then settled down into a rhythm in third place and was right up behind Lynn for a while, but even in the first few laps, something felt wrong.”
“I knew we were in trouble because we didn't have any speed coming off the corners, and that gradually got worse – the car just felt so slow. By lap six or seven it was really bad and my pace was horrendous, which gave Rowland the chance to get close to me and as I turned into a right-hander, I saw him coming really quickly in my mirrors.”
“I didn't put up too much of a defence, because it wasn't worth risking losing valuable points with an accident. He was never going to make the corner as it would have been impossible for him to stop at that speed, so I moved to the outside of the track and he went straight on, but that forced me onto the grass, too.”
“Then bizarrely, later in the race I had another slight bump across the grass, and when I came back on the car seemed to have cured itself. Everything lit up and it was flying again – we were suddenly three tenths quicker than the race leader! We were able to set some really rapid lap times after that, which is promising, because it shows that the pace is there when everything is working properly – that's the most important thing.”
Hawksworth now has his sights set on a first Formula Renault UK win, starting at the next two rounds at Thruxton in Hampshire, adding: “There are a lot of positives to take away from the Donington Park weekend. We had a lot more pace than we were able to demonstrate in the races; what we did on Sunday, we needed to have done on Saturday – and then it would have been a different game. We were matching the top guys all day Sunday, and we know how to unlock the pace in the car now, which should work for us everywhere and stand us in good stead for the remaining races.
“Next we go to Thruxton, which is a ridiculously quick track! There are plenty of opportunities to overtake, too, which should make the races more interesting. What we need to make sure is that on Saturday at Thruxton, we are where we were at Donington on Sunday. It's all about qualifying, because in Formula Renault, everything becomes a lot easier once you start qualifying on pole – but now that I know what I need in order to do the lap time, we can work towards that every single time we hit the track.”
“I've set my targets high – I've not come into this thinking of it as a learning year. There's only one aim, and that's to win the championship – and I'm working as hard as I can to make that happen. We've had consistent results in all the races so far, so the next step is really to shift it up a gear and put all the pieces together. At Donington, we were so much better than at Brands Hatch and genuinely in the ballpark, but I really want to start winning races now – and I'm pretty confident we can do that in the next two rounds.”