‘Ecstatic’ Hawksworth is King of Kartmasters – and Best in Britain!
An ‘ecstatic’ Jack Hawksworth proved himself as the best in Britain last weekend with a commanding performance to lift the prestigious Kartmasters laurels – a result that he confessed was ‘unbelievable’ given he had only sat in the kart for the first time a week earlier, and one that earned him the coveted ‘Driver of the Day’ award for good measure.
Kartmasters is the blue riband outing on the national karting calendar, and one in which Jack had hitherto enjoyed precious little good fortune – “it’s always seemed to be my ‘bogey’ meeting…out of four previous starts, I had only finished once,” he explains – and in pitching himself against the likes of the most successful competitor in the event’s history in the shape of multiple champion Michael Simpson, his entry in the 2010 edition was always going to be an immensely tough challenge.
Not only that, but for a driver far more accustomed to racing KZ gearbox karts in Europe, returning to the direct-drive Senior Rotax category in the UK with Protrain Racing marked quite a departure.
“I really wanted to do well and I believed I could win,” acknowledged the highly-rated young Bradford star, “but I also knew it was going to be really difficult, because I didn’t have much experience on the tyres and barely any experience at all with the kart, and it’s just completely different to KZ.
“In KZ you really have to push, and the harder you try the faster you go – you have to be really physical with the kart. Senior Rotax is more about being patient and precise – if you go over the limit just once, the lap is gone. You need to be consistent and clever about the way you race.
“It took me a few sessions in practice to get back into it, but come Friday afternoon I was starting to get properly into my rhythm, and I knew then we had a chance to do well. I was 95 per cent there I would say, though by the end of the weekend I still didn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable as I would in KZ – there was still probably room to improve.
“There were a lot of really good drivers there. Simpson has won Kartmasters seven times, so it was no mean feat to beat him, especially in Senior Max, because he has been renowned as the best driver in that class for many years. There were some really good young drivers out there too; John Stewart was exceptional, Ollie Varney as well – you don’t want to miss anyone out, because the list just goes on – and that all made for some very hard racing.”
Qualifying second only to Simpson – just over a tenth adrift of the pole-sitter – paved the way to a close runner-up finish in his opening heat race by roughly the same margin following an enthralling duel, and a battling third place in heat two secured Jack P2 in the intermediate rankings.
Setting the quickest time in the Sunday morning warm-up by more than three tenths of a second subsequently fired signal of his intent, and despite taking a hit on the first lap, the 19-year-old Cullingworth hotshot would go on to be the architect of a supremely intelligent pre-final.
“We led most of the first heat, but I got into a fight with Simpson and didn’t want to do anything rash so settled for second,” he recounted. “In heat two we went a bit too low on the tyre pressures which meant I had no grip at the start and fell down to eighth, but I stormed back through to third and set fastest lap.
“The outside line is known for not being a good place to start at PF, and in the pre-final I nearly got across to the inside but the driver behind Stewart pushed him a little bit and accidentally knocked me, which dropped me to fifth. Luckily we had the speed to come back through, but it was tough because the top four were all so similar on pace, and whilst Stewart was a bit quicker than me in some places, I was a bit quicker than him in others.
“He came on particularly strong in the second half of the race, so it was just a case of judging the right time to make my move and then executing it right to get a gap and carry that to the flag. When I did that and they started battling behind me, I knew it was in the bag. The pre-final was probably where we won the grand final, because we put ourselves in a position where we wouldn’t be fighting with anybody – it was vital to get pole. If we had started second, it would have been a much harder race…
“In the grand final, I got a little push from behind into the first corner but managed to hold onto it. Varney was right on my bumper and very quick for the first few laps, but I knew how important it was to keep him behind so I made sure I defended well. Luckily he got dragged back into the pack, and when the guys behind me all started fighting, it allowed me to get away.
“The first six laps were the most crucial; I knew I had to build a gap and then maintain it, and I wanted to pull far enough away so the others didn’t believe they could catch me anymore. After that it was all about staying consistent, not making any mistakes and just nursing the kart home. Obviously there is always an element of doubt and you need to keep pushing, otherwise things can change very quickly, but I was pushing without going right to the limit, just in case. I knew the kart was good, because the team had prepped it really well. I wasn’t at all scared of a mechanical failure, so it was simply up to me to finish the job off.”
That Jack did to absolute perfection, and anything his adversaries threw at him in terms of lap time, he always had an answer to. An imperious performance right out of the very top drawer, the Yorkshire speed demon beat rivals who with his paucity of prior testing he should arguably never have beaten – and in proving himself to be indubitably the class of the field, he also picked up the Nicholas Lowes trophy for triumphing in the most well-supported class and the hotly-contested ‘Driver of the Day’ accolade to-boot out of some 228 entrants.
“I won the European Championship with Protrain in 2006, and they’re a great bunch of guys,” he enthused in conclusion. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the paddock in Rotax who knows as much about the kart or gets the set-up as nailed – and they did a great job again!
“I’m ecstatic – it’s just unbelievable, a great victory! This has to be right up there as one of my best results. It’s my first major win since the Margutti Trophy in 2009 – it’s been a year-and-a-bit, but it’s been worth the wait! Considering I don’t normally race in Senior Max and that I’d had only two days’ testing in the kart beforehand, to go and win against the cream of the crop is just so special.”
To keep up-to-date with Jack’s latest career news and results, please visit: www.jackhawksworth.co.uk
All pictures are courtesy of Chris Walker/www.kartpix.net