Hawksworth rocks establishment as he sees off world's best Having displayed a clean pair of heels to his rivals in storming to victory on his maiden appearance in the Florida Winter Tour earlier this year, Jack Hawksworth maintained his stellar...
Hawksworth rocks establishment as he sees off world's best
Having displayed a clean pair of heels to his rivals in storming to victory on his maiden appearance in the Florida Winter Tour earlier this year, Jack Hawksworth maintained his stellar form as he kicked his 2009 European campaign into gear too - by claiming the runner-up spoils amongst a field that represented a glittering and veritable 'who's who' of karting.
With his eye firmly focussed on glory this year, Jack travelled to Sarno for the opening round of the hotly-fought WSK championship, ready to take on some 53 competitors of the very highest calibre around. The southern Italian track had been the scene of one of the Bradford star's strongest results of 2008, and the meeting marked both his first proper outing with defending KZ2 class champions Energy Corse and his first time out in the kart he will be racing this season. It would prove to be an encouraging start.
"It's a really nice circuit," Jack explained, "long and fast, with some good technical corners as well. It's got everything really, and as such it's very demanding for the driver, chassis and engine; you need to get the whole package right to set good lap times there.
"We were racing against all the best guys and we very fast all weekend, one of the quickest for sure and mixing it up at the front. Everybody who is anybody in karting was there - Jonathan Thonon, Davide Fore, Marco Ardigò, Gary Catt - everybody you can think of who means anything to the sport basically.
"Qualifying was an absolute lottery, though. They divided us up into two groups, and one group's session was dry and the other one wet. I was out in the dry session, but because it had been wet all the way through practice we were all still on wet set-ups and it turned into a case of whoever got lucky really. The grid was completely topsy-turvy, and I wasn't too disappointed in ending up 15th overall, because I knew we were still quick."
Though his qualifying position was far from ideal, the heats would witness a different story altogether, as Jack reprised his impressive practice pace to convert a trio of fourth row grid slots into a sixth place in heat one and a brace of runner-up spots in the following two. Those results were aided considerably by lightning getaways - "I kept going around the outside of the first corner, which is possible at Sarno because it's very wide" - and earned the 18-year-old second on the grid for the pre-final.
"At the beginning of the race I was hoping to finish in the top five," he recounted. "Ardigò and Thonon were both starting behind me and I was expecting them to come through, because they're the established kings of the class really. There were a couple of other quick guys out there too, so to keep it inside the top five I thought would be a pretty good job.
"The kart felt exceptional through the infield, though - I don't think there was anybody quicker in the middle section of the lap. That meant I was able to push really hard, and I actually got into the lead at one point, but then Bas Lammers and his team-mate Jeremy Iglesias pushed each other past me down the straight. I got back into second place before the end, though, and was actually half a second quicker than Bas when the race finished.
"I hadn't been expecting to finish second. My expectations for the weekend were mainly to make sure I finished inside the top ten in both finals. The problem is, when you've got so many good drivers and teams out there, to get into the top ten you've got to have everything perfect.
"To be honest I didn't think we were ready yet to put it all together like that, but the equipment Energy gave me was spot-on, really competitive - which made it easy for me to move through the field - and I really surprised myself. It wasn't by luck or by fluke that we were up there like we were."
That it certainly wasn't, and he was on for a repeat result in the grand final too - a race that carried twice as many points - until transmission woes robbed him of what would have been a superb climax to the weekend almost within sight of the chequered flag. It was a cruel blow, but in an arena in which British drivers have never traditionally shone, the former Junior Max Vice-World Champion, Junior Max European Champion and British ICC Vice-Champion had nonetheless shown the world exactly what he is capable of.
"I held onto second place at the start," he related, "but the tyres weren't working so well for the first few laps because we had set the kart up to come on later on, bearing in mind it was quite a long race. Rick Dreezen came past me, which pushed me back down to third, but as the tyres came to me I was able to catch him back up again and re-pass him.
"I then pulled out a little gap to the drivers battling behind me, and I was feeling comfortable in second and keeping Bas honest in the lead. I was pushing hard, but the problem was we were so close on times. He had built up a gap over the first few laps, and while he couldn't open it up any further, I couldn't close it either. It was just a stalemate. Then with four laps to go the chain just snapped and I didn't have any drive to the engine.
"Obviously everybody in the team was really gutted; if I had just finished second, I would have been second in the championship now in front of Ardigò and all the really big teams with their big budgets. What we did show, though, was that we're really fast this year and that on a circuit we didn't really know that well we were right up there and pushing for the top spots. To be second in the pre-final and running second in the final until we had the problem proves that we can mix it with the best in KZ1, and that's really promising for the World Cup and the rest of the WSK season."
As the sole real KZ2 interloper amongst the higher KZ1 class, Jack's performances are certainly beginning to make people sit up and take notice, and despite the lost points he still sits in a challenging fifth spot in the drivers' title chase. His next outing is in the annual Margutti Trophy at Castelletto near Pavia, and though the circuit will be new to him, it is an event the Cullingworth ace is confident he can win.
"At Sarno all the best drivers in the world were there - you can't get any harder than that," he reasoned. "There will still be a lot of good drivers in the Margutti and it should be a full grid of around 40, but I feel it's a race we can win. The team has tested there before with my team-mate, they will have good equipment for the race and we know we'll be fast.
"It's a tight and twisty track, quite similar to Angerville and Lonato from what I understand - and I've usually tended to go well at both those circuits. I won in the European Championship at Angerville last year before we got a jump-start penalty, and at Lonato I won the Junior Max final."
Indeed, the precedents are good, and later in the season there is also the World Cup to which Jack refers, again at Sarno - and the undisputed jewel in the crown of the 2009 calendar. Victory there, he confesses, would be quite something.
"We know we are bang on the pace at Sarno now," he concluded, "and I honestly think we've got a very good chance, especially as I believe we can make a lot of progress between now and then with new things coming along for the kart. Energy have never won the World Cup before, and I don't know if a British driver has ever won it either, so hopefully together we can do something special there.
"It would be absolutely unbelievable to win it - it's my main goal for the season - and hopefully we can try and make it happen this year. If that day comes, I'd be ecstatic. I don't think I can really describe the emotions I would feel to win something as big as that..."