The Bradford lad who took an early decision to target a career in America – a move that has served him well. By Gordon Kirby
Jack Hawksworth has enjoyed a rapid rise in America, winning the Star Mazda championship in 2012 and scoring three Indy Lights victories last year. The promising Briton’s speed and composure earned him a full-time IndyCar ride this year with Bryan Herta’s small but very capable team, and the 23-year-old from Bradford turned heads by qualifying in the top 10 for IndyCar’s season-opening street races in St Petersburg and Long Beach, then led impressively at the Indy road course race in May.
“With a rookie driver you’re looking for those flashes, those sparks, and we’re already starting to see that,” Herta said at Long Beach. “Jack has put in really good performances in practice, qualifying and the races and it’s been really encouraging so far.”
Hawksworth started racing karts when he was 13 and immediately made his mark in British and European karting. He made his car debut in the Formula Renault UK 2010 Winter Series, qualifying on pole for his first race and finishing fourth in the following year’s Formula Renault UK series with a win at Croft. Hawksworth and his family then took the decision to switch his career to America.
“We saw there was a scholarship system in America,” Hawksworth says. “If you won a championship you could move on to the next level. We thought that was really good and we also thought it was something we could sell as an investment, because there was a promise that if you delivered the results there was a reward.
“That had a lot of appeal to people who were interested in investing in my career. We thought it was the best option and I think it was the best decision we made. I couldn’t be happier with the results and where it’s got me to today with Bryan and his team.”
Herta was sold on Hawksworth when the young Brit first tested Herta’s Indycar at Sebring last winter. “Frankly, Jack’s manager was very good at selling him to me,” Herta says with a grin. “But several people I really respect called me and said this kid is worth investigating. I had a very open mind, not knowing what to expect, and he got in the car and did the business right away.
“I was really impressed, not just with his pace, but he stepped up right away to accepting a lot more data, a lot more information. None of that put him off and [team co-owner] Steve [Newey] and I were impressed. We talked about it and decided to take a chance on a rookie.”
Hawksworth appears to have a big future in IndyCar. “I think this is the biggest step I’ve made in my career,” he admits. “Like Bryan says, there’s a lot more information you’ve got to assess compared with the junior formula, so there’s a lot more to think about. It’s more complex and the cars are more physical to drive.
“What’s been good is that Bryan and everybody in the team have made it very easy for me to take the jump. They’ve not put me in a situation where I’ve felt under pressure at any point or felt that I don’t belong here. They’ve made it very easy for me and I think that’s made a big difference.
“The team has a nice, relaxed approach and everything feels like it’s working well together. Bryan was a successful driver and he understands what’s going on. He and the team have been invaluable. I’m still learning and there’s a lot to take on board. I need more time in the car and more time getting used to the format of the weekend, but Bryan and Steve have so much experience that it makes it easy for me to get up to speed.”
Keep an eye on Hawksworth, a talented, intelligent young man whose career is quickly taking shape in the US.
Career in brief
Born: 28/02/1991, Bradford, UK
2004-2010: karting, honours including Junior Max European title in 2006
2010: Formula Renault UK Winter Series, 3rd
2011: Formula Renault UK, 4th
2012: Star Mazda, champion
2013: Indy Lights, 4th