Just days after picking up the prestigious Henry Surtees Award at the glittering annual British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Awards luncheon, Jack Hawksworth announced he will compete for Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship next year.

Hawksworth, from Cullingworth, stormed to a sensational Star Mazda Championship title in his first year in America with Team Pelfrey.

It led to him clinching the Surtees award – bestowed upon the driver deemed to have produced the stand-out performance of any of the club’s BRDC rising stars – and resulted in a clamour for his signature in 2013.

And following an imp-ressive testing outing at Sebring International Race-way in Florida, multiple Indy Lights champions SSM sealed the deal.

“I am delighted to be joining a team with such pedigree and hunger to add to their ever-growing list of achievements,” said Hawksworth.

“The team’s success speaks for itself. This is the dream ride in Indy Lights – everyone in the series wants to drive for Sam Schmidt, and I am over the moon to be able to do so.”

SSM has clinched the Indy Lights laurels on no fewer than six occasions since 2004 – and is undefeated since 2010 – making it the most decorated team in the series’ history, with 53 race victories to their credit and an unrivalled track record of producing drivers’ champions.

Meanwhile, Hawksworth has been tipped to “show what he is truly capable of” in 2013 by former Formula One world champion John Surtees.

The motorsport legend presented the gifted former Parkside School pupil with the Henry Surtees Award at a star-studded gathering in London attended by a veritable who’s who of British motor racing.

Those present included Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Frank Williams, David Coulthard, Christian Horner, Ross Brawn, Murray Walker and the club’s president-in-chief, HRH The Duke of Kent.

The ceremony is held annually to celebrate the most illustrious motor racing achievements of the year, and the Henry Surtees Award was introduced in 2009 after John’s 18-year-old son Henry was killed in a freak accident during an FIA Formula Two meeting at Brands Hatch.

Hawksworth was selected as the 2012 recipient of the accolade after storming to eight victories with Team Pelfrey in the Star Mazda Championship.

“It’s been a dream year, to be honest,” said Hawksworth. “It was a risk going to America but it was a calculated risk.

“I was racing on the other side of the world, but that only makes it even more special to be noticed on this side of the world and it’s fantastic for that to be recognised with such a prestigious award.”

Hawksworth received a glowing tribute from Surtees, the only man ever to have clinched the coveted world championship crown on both two wheels and four.

“The decision to look to America was a brave one but also a sensible one,” said Surtees. “Jack was following in the footsteps of drivers like Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon, who had demonstrated exceptional potential but hadn’t been able to progress their careers here in the UK.”

He added: “I am sure that we have not heard the last of Jack Hawksworth, and that with his ability, determination and the oppor-tunity he now has in America, he will be able to show what he is truly capable of.”