In all of his years in racing, Britain’s Jack Hawksworth had never raced at the Nürburgring. The Englishman left for the United States in 2012 to find success in the New World. After seasons in IndyCar, he moved to IMSA in 2017 where he has raced with Lexus ever since.
By now an expert of the Lexus RC F GT3, Hawksworth was called to Europe to help Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe debutants Tech1 Racing get up to speed with the Japanese car. With a fifth place finish at the Nürburgring, the experience of the Brit, who competes with the Lexus fulltime in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with AIM Vasser Sullivan, is already showing in his second weekend with the French squad.
“Tech1 was coming into the sprint series for the first time to run a Pro effort and it just made sense to have someone with experience to come in and help.
“They have a lot of good guys and they’ve been racing the car in the Am class in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup this year, so they already have some experience
“This is a first step into the Pro category and just try and get an understanding of the Pirellis and develop the set-up for the tyres and hopefully be competitive.
“The tyres [used in Blancpain GT] are different [from those in IMSA] for sure and the philosophy between the teams is different set-up wise between the cars, so it’s really just trying to bring it all together and find out what the answer is to get to the front. The target in the end is to win.”
When Hawksworth began racing with Lexus in 2017 the RC F struggled to break into the top 10. It didn’t take long for the car to deliver on its promise: Year two saw 3GT Racing take victory for the first time, while this season, with AIM Vasser Sullivan having taken over the Lexus torch, Hawksworth has collected two race wins in North America, underlining the intense development process the Lexus has gone through.
“It’s been massive, and I think the pace of the car has always been very strong. But as with any new car, it’s the first GT3 car that Lexus brought into a high-profile series so it took a little bit of adjustment initially to dial it in and understand as you would expect.
“There have been important changes: We had an ABS system change at the end of ’17, but more fundamental than that it’s really just understanding how to run the car, where it needs to be aerodynamically, where it needs to be mechanically to get the best out of the tyre and to get the best out of the car. So, I would say it’s not like we’ve bolted a part onto the car, we’ve just unlocked running the car in a more efficient and effective way which is has really been where the key strides have been made in the last few years.
“We’ve had different people working on the car and they all bring different ideas. And if you just look at how much work we’ve done: Since 2016 we’ve probably done 100-200 days on the track with the cars so we’ve done a lot of days on the track and off the track and a lot of good minds have been working on it and we’re understanding how to run the car better every day.
“The teams we’ve had working with the car have done a really good job in terms of testing and developing the set-ups and what not, so I feel like now we’re in a place where we can be very competitive with the car on any given weekend and many different types of tracks and the results and the victories and the podiums have kind of shown that.”
Alongside sprint races with Tech1 Racing, Hawksworth also ran selected races with Strakka Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. As is the nature of GT3, the former IndyCar pilot finds both cars to have characters of their own.
“I didn’t do a lot of races with the Merc, but they are very different vehicles. That’s what makes GT3 racing exciting. All of these cars in GT3 are completely different, they drive completely different. They make their performance in a different area of the circuit so there are certain corners where you look at the track and you know the Lexus should be faster through that corner and there are certain corners where you see another manufacturer and you think they should be faster through that corner. Each car has its own strengths and weaknesses and they drive very differently – where they make their performance is very different.
“It was nice and it’s always fun to try different car, but I much prefer driving the Lexus.”
Having followed the Road To Indy starting in Star Mazda and winning his way into the IndyCar Series before switching to IMSA, the 28-year-old has established a career for himself in the USA and is now looking to make more appearances back on the old continent.
“Potentially, yes. I’ve done a little bit this year and obviously this is stepping into the Blancpain GT sprint championship, so who know what the plan will be for next year. I’ll continue in IMSA for sure and then perhaps build on that with some racing over here, hopefully.
“I’d love to come back, most of my career has been in America. My karting career was all in Europe and I did one year of Formula Renault UK and ever since then I went to the States and raced Star Mazda, Indy Lights, IndyCar and GT3.
“Even though I’m English, this is the first time I’ve been to the Nürburgring which everyone thinks is bizarre because all the Europeans have raced a million times at Silverstone, but I go to these tracks and have never seen them before. I got Sebring, Mid-Ohio – I know them all so it’s a bit bizarre, really, you have an English guy who knows all the American tracks but doesn’t know any of the European ones so I’d like to come back here and be competitive.
“Ideally what I’d like to see is the Lexus winning in IMSA and I’d like to see the Lexus winning in Blancpain GT. As a brand I think we want to prove we have a GT3 car that’s capable of beating these other manufacturers and I think we do but with any new team, new series, new tyres, it takes a little bit of time to get everything right and we’ll try our best to do that.”