Jack Hawksworth says it felt “awesome” to claim his first race victory in five years with the AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus GT3 squad and co-driver Richard Heistand at Mid-Ohio.
Hawksworth and Heistand took the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 to its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class win of the season in only its third race with its new partner team.
The 28-year-old Englishman, who overtook the Acura NSX GT3 Evo of Mario Farnbacher to take the win, felt the result was made sweeter by the fact that it was his first in any form of racing since 2014, when he won the IMSA Prototype Challenge class at Indianapolis.
This came during the first year of a three-season stint in the IndyCar Series, which immediately preceded Hawksworth’s involvement in the Lexus GT3 program.
“It’s been a while since I won a race,” Hawksworth told Sportscar365. “Last year we had a lot of poles and fastest laps but were never able to convert that into a race win.
“So, from a personal perspective, it was awesome to get back on top of the podium, for me but also for the whole team.
“We’ve had three races this year: we were able to get the No. 12 car on the podium at Daytona and got another podium and a win at Mid-Ohio. It’s a great reward for all their hard work.
“It was a really good battle with the Acura and we were fighting with them all race. Richard did an unbelievable job in qualifying to do a fantastic [pole] lap in tricky conditions when the track was drying out.
“Myself and Mario were trading lap times for the last two stints of the race. We could see each other on track and we were right by each other, but we were on slightly different fuel strategies.
“At the end, he was pouring the pressure on me, giving it absolutely everything. I’ve raced with Mario and driven in the same team as him, so I’ve got a lot of respect for him. It was good fun.”
Hawksworth said the Mid-Ohio win was a suitable reward for AIM Vasser Sullivan’s work during a tight winter schedule to prepare for its IMSA debut.
The team opened its account with a podium in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, while its two crews are now placed second and third in the GTD standings.
“For the guys it’s been flat-out because the team was only formed 90 days before the Daytona race,” he said.
“They were thrashing to get everything together. But we’ve got a great bunch of guys.
“The team owners are a conglomerate of lots of different entities: you’ve got Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan who are synonymous with IndyCar; you’ve got AIM who are a race and championship-winning team in sports cars, and then there’s Lexus USA on board.
“So there was a lot of stuff that needed to be put together before turning some laps, and it all came together very quickly. But obviously the guys are doing a top job because the results are showing that.”
Hawksworth suggested that his prior experience with the Lexus, combined with the sports car background of the AIM part of the AVS organization, has helped the team get up to speed quickly.
Hawksworth was central to the early development of the Lexus GT3 package and is the only driver to have competed in every IMSA race that it has featured in.
“I’ve got a lot of experience with the car and I’ve been driving it for the best past of three years now,” he said.
“I guess I’ve probably got more laps in that car than anybody else on the planet, so hopefully that experience of knowing when to change certain things and what to expect from the car has translated into helping the guys out.
“I think what’s been quite good over the past few years is that we’ve really been able to have a really good baseline for this car.
“It’s changed a bit this year with the Michelin tires, but we feel that we’ve got quite a good baseline that we can take to more circuits and run relatively well, and then from there, just tune the balance a little bit depending on circumstance.”
Lexus Team “Chipping Away” for Points
Hawksworth added that the AVS squad is hoping that its Mid-Ohio win will spur it on for further high-profile results and a potential end-of-season title charge.
“It’s looking pretty good at the minute because we’ve got two Lexus in the championship top three,” he said.
“We’re second in the manufacturers’ points so things are looking good at the minute. There are a lot of good teams and good drivers, so we’ve just got to keep chipping away.
“The direction of the team is on the up at the minute. We’re in good shape, I think.”