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Defensive masterclass earns Jack Hawksworth third place
After finding himself the best part of two seconds shy of the pace, Jack Hawksworth admitted that a podium finish was a miraculous outcome to the Firestone Indy Lights Mid-Ohio 100.
The Cullingworth driver had his tail up off the back of a sublime second victory of an impressive rookie campaign in the Toronto 100 last time out.
But balance and speed problems with his 450bhp Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) single-seater left him up against it from the start.
The 22-year-old qualified in third place and it was only a master class in defensive driving that saved him from being written out of the chase for the coveted crown.
“I settled into third position in the race,” he said, “but it swiftly became apparent that we had nothing for the guys in front.
“I fell into the clutches of the group behind and had Carlos Muñoz all over the back of me until he made a mistake.
“I then spent the next 20 laps needing to place my car inch perfectly in order to stave off Zach Veach.
“Carlos, meanwhile, was working his way back up the order and, after recovering to fourth, he put me under some serious pressure over the final 15 laps.
“It was pretty much 55 minutes of solid defending because I knew if I made even the slightest error, it wouldn’t have been just one of them sweeping past me.”
It speaks volumes for Hawksworth that he was the only driver to successfully fend off Muñoz’s advances as the championship leader scythed his way through the pack.
The reigning Star Mazda champion had as many as four faster adversaries snapping right at his heels but dogged determination – despite lapping routinely third-slowest on the track – saw the former Parkside School pupil hold on to clinch third behind winner Gabby Chaves and runner-up Peter Dempsey.
His fifth podium finish of the season enabled Hawksworth to reduce his deficit to the top of the points table from 43 to 40 with three races left to run.
Next up on September 1 is Baltimore, where he earned his seventh triumph of a record-breaking Star Mazda run 12 months ago.
“It was a strange weekend,” he concluded of Mid-Ohio. “It certainly wasn’t what we had been expecting or hoping for but, as a team, we executed everything absolutely perfectly.
“I extracted the maximum possible out of the car in the race – it was probably my best drive of the season because we were miles off the pace and I was under pressure from lap three onwards.
“I was constantly on the defensive and having to employ every trick in the book!”
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