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HAWKSWORTH: Great to Be Back

Vasser Sullivan Lexus driver files his latest Sportscar365 column ahead of VIR weekend…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

It’s been fantastic to be back racing the last month. To be back with the Vasser Sullivan team, to be back competing and just having fun again has been awesome.

We’ve had two good weekends as well in terms of results — strong qualifying efforts, a third-place finish at Lime Rock and our first GTD Pro win at Road America. It has been great to be back again and then getting the results on track has been extremely promising.

It’s been a strange year for me. The whole thing still feels like a bit of a dream – it’s quite unreal in terms of everything that’s happened.

The year started off with a lot of new things. We moved to the GTD Pro class, and I got a new teammate in Ben Barnicoat.

We started the season off trying to build the program and hit the ground running. We had a good start at Daytona with a fourth-place result. We went on to Sebring and had a strong race going there.

After that we headed to the West Coast where we had two second place finishes at Long Beach and Laguna Seca.

Photo: Phil Abbott/IMSA

I remember thinking at the time, we’re really starting to build some momentum. We’re getting stronger and we’re only going to keep getting stronger as the year goes on.

Then, I had my motocross accident in May… not ideal! From that point on I had to go through the whole process of dealing with my injuries and the two surgeries that went with it.

It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but at that point it was all about trying to get healthy again and get back to being able to do my job.

I was very fortunate to be able to work with a lot of good people. My recovery was supported by Lexus, the Vasser Sullivan team, my family and by all the good people who are around me.

When you’re a competitive athlete and something like that happens, you want to get back as soon as you can. The competitor in me wanted to be back with my team and back in the Lexus racing again, but at the same time you don’t really know how long stuff like that is going to take to heal.

There’s always a risk with how fast you push it to come back. I didn’t leave any stone unturned in terms of trying to push the recovery, and along with the doctors and physios I worked with, they all did an incredible job in helping me return in such a short amount of time.

Photo: Brett Farmer/IMSA

It was an awesome feeling to get the monkey off our back at Road America with the first GTD Pro win. It was validation that we’ve brought the right people in and that we’ve got a good core group of guys across the team who are performing very well every weekend.

Jimmy Vasser and Sulli have put a good team of people together and the team is performing at a high level. They are constantly looking at ways to improve and make this team better.

We’ve got great support from Lexus and TRD, and as a team, we’re in a really good spot at the moment.

The Lexus way focuses on Kaizen, which means to continuously improve and that’s the philosophy that the team has embraced, and we will continue to follow going forward.

I think you’ve seen that not only at Road America, but in the last few events. The team has been strong, and we’ve constantly been in the mix.

The win at Road America was validation to the guys that we’re headed in the right direction and all the hard work everyone is putting in is paying off. Just a well-deserved victory for all the hard work the guys have put in.

Now we find ourselves coming off a couple of good results and into the last two races of the season. Throughout this season, we’ve constantly chipped away and built and built and built and we’re really starting to see the team perform at a high level now.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

In terms of drivers, adding Ben to the mix this year has been a fantastic addition. It’s been fun working together as co-drivers.

He’s very fast, he’s a great racer and he’s brought some good ideas to the table as well. It’s been a bit of a story having two Brits in the same car together. And, not just two Brits, but two Northern Brits.

We grew up racing at a lot of the same kart tracks and kind of on a similar path. It’s a bit of a unique story, but a great situation. We’ve got a very good relationship. We’ve built a good solid foundation as a driver pairing, four podiums together — and you couple that with the great people we’ve got surrounding us on our car and on the Vasser Sullivan team and it’s an exciting time.

We both have slightly different driving styles. I’d say we race similar, but in terms of driving we have slightly different techniques, which I think is a good thing in many ways. Certain things work at certain tracks and on certain corners and certain styles work on other tracks and other corners.

To have somebody who drives a little bit different to you and vice versa, you can pick up on things from each other and hopefully push each other forward. It’s been really good in that respect as well.

Photo: IMSA

I’m very excited for this weekend. VIR is one of the best tracks on the calendar. It’s probably the one which I enjoy driving the most.

It has a lot of elevation change, a lot of high-speed corners and it’s a very flowing circuit. It’s not the most well-known circuit in the world, but it’s got so much character and it’s so much fun to race around there in our Lexus RC F GT3.

It’s one that I personally really look forward to every year.

Going into these last two races at VIR and Petit Le Mans, we’re hoping to continue to push on and keep improving. The goal is to finish out the year strong and catapult us into 2023.

The aim next year will be to fight for the major wins and fight for the championship. We’re in a really good position now to end this year with a good set of results and use that momentum to carry us into 2023!

Jack Hawksworth (@JackHawkRace ‏) drives the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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