Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Jarvis, Hawksworth Appreciate American Circuit Challenges

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

WATKINS GLEN, New York — The runoff at many European circuits has gotten out of control, at least according to Mazda Team Joest driver Oliver Jarvis and AIM Vasser Sullivan driver Jack Hawksworth.

Recent track limit discussions in Formula One have reverberated throughout the racing world, and many circuits that Formula One race on around the world have large amounts of paved runoffs extending from the circuit edges. Meanwhile, the vast majority of road racing circuits in North America have grass and gravel traps lining them.

“I think Formula One should come to America and look at the American tracks,” said Jarvis.

“It’s great, as a driver it’s rewarding. You can push, you can find time, but you know if you go over the limit, there’s a consequence. Somewhere like Paul Ricard, you go out, you push 110 percent on the out lap because it doesn’t matter. Here, Mid-Ohio, Mosport, Road America, Road Atlanta, these are proper race tracks.

“It’s the way every driver likes to drive in IMSA and a driver can really make a difference here in this championship. So I don’t think you’ll find a driver down in the pit lane that would disagree to say you have the best race tracks in the world here in America,” Jarvis added.

Jarvis won the pole for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen in his No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi entry with a new track record lap of 1 minute, 29.639 seconds.

Hawksworth has two GTD class wins in the last two WeatherTech Championship races with co driver Richard Heistand. The British driver has won races in Great Britain and the 2012 Star Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) Championship in North America before racing in the NTT IndyCar Series from 2014 through 2016.

The pro-rated driver in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 entry dislikes how much concrete runoff there is at many modern race tracks and how it affects the racing product.

“It’s racing, when you start to over-sanitize and over-sanitize, it loses its sparkle,” said Hawksworth. “It’s what you’re seeing with Formula One at the moment, it’s become so sanitized and so Scalextric if you will, that it’s not interesting any more.

“I think you take something away from the spectacle. I think you take something away from the character of the track as well. If there’s gravel then there’s grass around the circuit, the cars look quicker, there’s a danger and circuits are more recognizable.”

Hawksworth likes the old school feel of American circuits and claims they are more pure than many tracks elsewhere, going so far as to say that newer tracks can damage the on track product with no real punishment for error.

“I feel like the evolution of the Herman Tilke tracks are really quite damaging for the sport,” said Hawksworth, speaking of the current designer responsible for many Formula One circuit layouts.

“The new tracks lack character because they all look the same because of concrete runoff. I’m very much of the opinion that these old school circuits are what people want and it’s what all the drivers want.”

Many outsiders will claim that more concrete runoffs make the circuits safer, and that’s what the drivers want. However, many drivers have expressed a desire to have circuits that have that element of danger still present, Hawksworth included.

“I mean it’s safer but there’s a point… you’ve got the Indianapolis 500 which we do which has a wall all the way around it and you do 230 mph so I think we can have a bit of gravel and grass and still be all right, do you know what I mean?”

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.