A podium finish was the highlight of a tough weekend for Jack Hawksworth on his Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship debut at Brands Hatch. Running with Mark Burdett Motorsport, the 20 year old overcame issues with his car and illness to pick up a third place in the final race of the weekend.
He came into the weekend on the back of a strong performance in November's Winter Series, in which he picked up four pole positions and finished third in the standings. This was followed by a winter testing schedule that didn't go entirely to plan, with car problems and a couple of incidents leaving him feeling on the back foot heading into the season opener.
With the team suffering from electrical and throttle issues during Friday practice, the team were restricted when it came to refining set up, meaning Jack headed into qualifying feeling nervous, as he knew the importance of a good grid slot on a track that has limited overtaking opportunities in races. He ended up setting times that would see him lining up sixth on the grid for race one and third for race two.
Bradford-based Hawksworth said: “We had to spend all of practice sorting the problems out, which meant we never got to dial the car into the circuit. We still got a lot of running in, but instead of focussing on getting everything perfect and improving the performance, we had to analyse the problems and try to fix them. That was tough, and we went into qualifying just hoping we had cured everything.
“The first session was a bit disappointing; we'd wanted to be a little bit further up than sixth, but in the circumstances, it wasn't too bad. The good thing was that we improved the car a lot between the two sessions, so we were happy with that – we'd got ourselves into the mix. Brands Hatch Indy is a short lap, and the nature of the track means it's always really tight in terms of lap times – you've got to eke every single drop of performance out of the car that you can, because just a tenth of a second really can make all the difference.”
With overtaking difficult, he found himself stuck in sixth position throughout the first race, before fending off pressure from series race winners Ollie Millroy and Will Stevens in race two to come home in third place, seeing him end the weekend fifth in the championship standings.
He added: “Honestly, I didn't feel any pressure from behind – the only pressure in the second race was coming from myself, to try to make the best of a bad situation. I didn't feel right all weekend – I was just so lethargic. I felt really ill and tired, and I couldn't concentrate as well as normal, so it was just a case of damage limitation, really.
“In the end, I managed to get into a rhythm that I was happy with, and I just drove a consistent race and was able to keep Ollie and Will at bay. It was nip-and-tuck all the way through, but they never got anywhere near my gearbox and in the circumstances, I was happy to get a podium. We obviously want to be P1 all the time, but whilst the championship clearly isn't won at the first meeting, you can definitely do a lot of damage to your chances if you have two DNFs.
“We've only had two rounds so far and consistency will be so important. It's so close that you're going to have bad days, but to finish third on a bad day, I'm pretty happy with that – and it's always nice to come away with a trophy. The team were brilliant, and a podium makes it all so much more worthwhile for everybody involved.
“We knew this would be probably our weakest round of the year in terms of pace, and we'll be a lot quicker when we go elsewhere, especially with what we found over the weekend – when we put everything together, we should be a lot more competitive for future races.”
Next up for Hawksworth is a trip to Donington Park on April 16/17, a weekend he is looking forward to:“We've got quite a bit more speed to come and I think we will be right up there and putting a lot of pressure on the championship leader. I'm in a very confident mood. It's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but if we can finish third after all the problems we had and when nearly everything was wrong, we can do a much better job at Donington when we put all the pieces together. It'll be a different story there!”