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Source: Racer Magazine

Hawksworth thrown in at the deep end for Le Mans debut

by Stephen Kilbey | June 11th, 2024

Vasser Sullivan IMSA racer Jack Hawksworth finds himself in at the deep end this week at Le Mans.

The 33-year-old Brit is one of several high-profile drivers in the LMGT3 class making their La Sarthe debut this year; and they all have a lot to learn. The difference is, Hawksworth wasn't on the entry list until last week.

After Mike Conway was forced to withdraw from the event on short notice due to an injury sustained in a cycling incident, Toyota Gazoo Racing had to act fast to find a third driver for the No. 7 GR010 HYBRID. It picked a safe pair of hands, recalling longtime team member Jose Maria Lopez back to the Hypercar squad for an unexpected cameo.

Toyota's Conway withdraws from Le Mans after cycling accident

This in turn left AKKODIS ASP with a gap to fill alongside Takeshi Kimura and Esteban Masson. That's where Jack Hawksworth's story begins.

"It's been crazy, fun and mad," he told RACER. "I was in Mid-Ohio for a GT4 race last week and then on the Friday I was heading to the circuit and got a call to say Mike had fallen off his bike.

"It was all systems go from there, I picked up my helmet and gear, went back to the hotel to grab my bag - which was only packed for three days - and booked the first flight to Detroit from Charles De Gaulle (Paris). And when I landed I went straight from there to scrutineering on Saturday!"

Since moving from full-time IndyCar to IMSA GTD in 2017, the accolades have piled up. In his time with Vasser Sullivan, Hawksworth has racked up wins at key races like the Sebring 12 Hours and the Six Hours at the Glen and earned a GTD Pro title in 2023. But he's yet to leave his mark on the Le Mans 24 Hours.

He's been drafted in for the 92nd running by AKKODIS ASP, not because he knows this event, but because he has been racing the RC F GT3 full-time for more than six years. Put simply, with the team in need of a driver that could extract pace from Lexus’ flagship customer car on short notice, there was nobody better to call upon.

Hawksworth is well used to the RC F, albeit in its IMSA form. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Interestingly, the RC F LMGT3 that now competes in the FIA WEC is not identical to the car that Hawksworth campaigns in IMSA. So he will need a little more time to adjust during the practice and qualifying sessions over the next two days.

Unlike IMSA GTD cars, LMGT3 cars in the WEC feature torque sensors, virtual energy tanks and Goodyear tires. To fit into the defined performance window, the RC F LMGT3 has also undergone slight tweaks to its aero.

"It's hard to compare the IMSA and WEC-spec cars, because we haven't had many laps, the track is so different to anything I've ever raced in America," he explained. "Last time out in Detroit it was max downforce, first and second gear corners, then here we are doing like 290 kph down the straight with the car trimmed out. The tires are definitely different too, as is the aero package.

"My initial impressions when I drove were pretty positive though, the car seems to suit the circuit quite well. The first few races for AKKODIS seemed like a struggle, but this track seems to suit everything better. We're not in a bad window, you can't look into lap time yet, but it looks promising."

Hawksworth's first impressions of the 13.6 km La Sarthe circuit came during the Test Day on Sunday, where he and the AKKODIS ASP team at large showed flashes of pace, topping the Morning session.

The French team's start to life in the WEC has been far from simple this year, with a new ruleset, new car and new circuits to get used to. But green shoots are beginning to appear, with the No. 78 crew scoring the team its first point at Spa last time out. Morale heading into the biggest race of the year, which is also the team’s home race, is high as a result.

"They're really good guys and they were so successful with Mercedes in the SRO stuff,” Hawksworth said. “And this is not the easiest GT3 car to pick up and run with. You need a good team and to be on top of a lot of things. It's an older car, but you can see that with time and experience these guys are going to be competitive.

"I'm just super excited to be here, we all area. The experience so far, even though I'm jetlagged, has been so enjoyable. This event is super healthy, there's really good competition. It's nice to come here for the first time with Lexus too because I've been racing with them for so long.

"We want to do as well as we can, I want to help as much as I can, but at the same time it's like a mini break from the IMSA season and the championship fight there, which is just flat out.

"It won't last long though, as I've already booked my flight from Paris to Charlotte for next week, and then it's Watkins Glen!"