Jessica Hawkins continues her Mini Challenge at Rockingham

Fighting hard in race two (Photo by Marc Waller)Jessica Hawkins continued her amazing first season in the Mini Challenge Cooper class with a visit to Rockingham last weekend.

It’s been an amazing season for the Surrey driver with a pole and two wins on her debut weekend at Snetterton followed up with a third place in the reverse grid race. She then repeated the feat at the Silverstone event. Incredible considering that she hadn’t even sat in the car prior to the season. Usually you’d expect a driver to take a season to adjust to a championship but something has “clicked” for her this season and she’s been setting the pace from the very first session.

Now for the third meeting at Rockingham, one of the more tricky circuits to learn but Hawkins was on the pace from the Friday test session, setting the fastest time, even if only be a small margin.

The race weekend itself would consist of a qualifying session and just two race, the second having a reverse grid based on the finishing order of the first.

Qualifying went even better than testing, taking pole by just under a quarter of a second. Now it was time for race one and to see if she could take another lights to flag victory.

As had become normal this season, Hawkins got a great start off the line and lead into the Deene Hairpin. Several rivals closed and were right behind her as they exited but with cars three abreast behind her, they started fighting amongst themselves, leaving her free to pull away. For the rest of the race she managed to maintain enough of a gap to make sure the race was never in doubt and crossed the line to the cheers of the Excelr8 team.

After the podium ceremony she had to draw the reverse grid as the winner of race one. She drew the best possible number of 4, meaning the top four would be reversed with Hawkins in fourth.

She was determined to try and beat her best reverse grid result of third this time and made a strong start. Soon she was challenging for third and ran alongside her rival for the position for a big chunk of a lap before having to drop back again. Hawkins had learnt a lot about her rivals weaknesses around the track though and on the second attempt she was through into third.

But there was chaos round the corner when the leader ran wide through the final chicane, bunching up the field behind and sending the second placed car into Hawkins. It was then turned around in front of her, leaving her with no choice but to back off to avoid spinning her rival. By the time she could get back on the power she had dropped to fifth.

Jessica speds around the turn 1 banking (Photo by Marc Waller) Jessica celebrates the win from the top step (Photo by Marc Waller) Number one (Photo by Marc Waller) Jessica with her Mechanic Toyah Rule (Photo by Marc Waller)

 

 

 

A safety car was then scrambled due to a separate incident elsewhere on the lap. This was a disaster for Hawkins as it reduced the amount of time she had to climb back up to a podium position. It finally went in with just two laps to go and Hawkins immediately set about making up the positions she needed. On the final lap she was running fourth when the third placed car left a gap heading into the hairpin. She made a dive up the inside and drew alongside. The two cars touched but she came out ahead and crossed the line in third.

Sadly after celebrating on the podium for third. Hawkins was later given a 1 second penalty as it was judged that her late race pass was unfair, dropping her to fifth. It was a debatable penalty but one she had to accept. The first and fifth places still increased her championship lead.

Hawkins was still happy with the weekend.

“I was really happy to take pole and win the first race once again. I was determined to try and take another podium in race two but the incident at the chicane dropped me back. I thought the move I made at the hairpin was on but it wasn’t to be. I’m still leading the championship though so I’ll take that. I’m really looking forward to the Mini Festival at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks.” By Marc Waller 

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