Less than a month after being crowned 2012 Star Mazda champion in his first season, Cullingworth’s Jack Hawksworth has been selected as a finalist for the coveted McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers’ Club Young Driver of the Year award.
Hawksworth (pictured) wrapped up the Star Mazda laurels for Team Pelfrey with one of his finest victories of a record-breaking rookie season at Laguna Seca early last month.
As a result, the talented former Parkside School pupil has been lined up as a candidate for an award won by illustrious names such as Jenson Button and David Coulthard in the past.
Hawksworth will compete in a six-driver shoot-out at Silverstone in November, where he and his fellow finalists will be pitched against one another in the sport’s three principal disciplines – single-seaters, tin-tops and endurance.
While out-and-out raw pace will be a key criterion in order to prevail, the successful candidate will also need to demonstrate an aptitude for consistency and feedback, a strong mental approach, excellent presentation and media skills and tip-top physical fitness.
Drivers will be assessed by a panel of expert judges, including former grand prix star and current BRDC president Derek Warwick, and Hawksworth is determined to prove he is the complete all-round package.
The 21-year-old said: “I was delighted when I received the phone call, absolutely over-the-moon.
“It’s brilliant. Just to be given the chance to drive cars like that round Silverstone is something pretty special in itself – and one that very few people ever get.
“I’ve not driven any of the three cars before and I’ve never driven any racecar with a roof on it so that will certainly be a different kind of challenge, but it will be really interesting to see what they’re like. They all look awesome pieces of machinery.
“If you’re competing in single-seaters – be it in Britain, Europe or the USA – this award is the one thing every young British driver dreams of being part of. I just want to enjoy it and give it my very best shot.”
The winner will be revealed at the glittering Autosport Awards ceremony in London at the beginning of December, and will receive £100,000, a McLaren-Mercedes F1 test and full BRDC membership.
Previous recipients of the accolade include four-time IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti – in whose illustrious wheeltracks Hawksworth is bidding to follow – 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard and Indy Lights race-winner Stefan Wilson.
“In hindsight, at the end of last year, I wouldn’t have been ready for an opportunity like this, but now I feel a lot stronger all-round and I’m confident I can give a good account of myself,” asserted the highly-rated Cullingworth hotshot. “It’s funny; you think you know everything, and at this point in 2011, I certainly thought I was pretty clued-up on it all – and then it turns out a year later that I didn’t actually know anything!
“This has been a career-saving year for me, if I’m honest. It’s been absolutely key in that it’s really put me back on the map.
“Last year didn’t go quite the way I’d wanted it to, so to return to victory lane 12 months on is just amazing.
When I look at everything I’ve learned and the amount of progress I’ve made, it’s been a complete transformation. I’ve matured a lot and improved in every single area – I’m a much tougher competitor now.
“I’m going to approach the test at Silverstone like I do every race weekend – to go there and do the best job I can. The prize is fantastic, and winning it would be awesome, a career-changing moment. I can’t even begin to imagine how unbelievable that would be – just out-of-this-world.
“It’s such a prestigious award and if you look at the drivers who have won it before, I think it opens a lot of doors. It’s probably one of the greatest things that can happen to a young driver and really generates some momentum behind the winner. I’ll give it absolutely everything I’ve got – and hopefully, that will be enough.”
You can follow Jack’s career at www.jackhawksworth.co.uk and on Twitter