By IMSA Wire Service
Jack Hawksworth won his first race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship back in 2014 in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But it wasn’t until the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio on May 5 that he’d win again, this time in the GT Daytona (GTD) class aboard the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
“My first-ever race in the championship, I won, but it took five years to get back there,” Hawksworth says. “It was a long old road, but I’m obviously really excited to get back into victory lane. It was special to do it in one of the Lexus RC F cars, which I’ve had the pleasure of driving for the last two and a half years.
“To get a win so early in the season with AIM Vasser Sullivan as well, which is a new team, it was just a testament to everyone’s hard work and persistence. I’m very, very happy.”
Richard Heistand was thrilled as well coming out of Mid-Ohio. Hawksworth’s first-year co-driver in the No. 14 Lexus took an even longer road back to victory lane.
More than a decade ago, Heistand was a solid performer in Skip Barber National competition. But then he moved into the Atlantic Championship, and everything changed.
“After doing two years with Skip Barber National, when the second year I had a lot of good results, I took this big step up to Atlantic,” Heistand explained. “I was on a rookie team, and we did no testing. It was a super competitive year, and we didn’t have good results. I knew I could drive, but I wasn’t able to show it, and then I stopped.”
That was at the end of the 2007 racing season. Heistand stayed away from the sport for more than 10 years, before returning to the cockpit in another highly competitive environment – Porsche Carrera Cup and Porsche Supercup in Europe – last year.
“I had some good results, particularly in context, in Supercup and Carrera Cup,” he said. “But in general, it’s a field of 25 fast drivers. It’s a massively competitive thing. I really didn’t have the opportunity to have real success there, either. I would have had to stick around a couple years.
“So, it had been a long time since I had been able to show what I was capable of in a race car. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments where you start doubting yourself when you’re talking about a 12-, 13-year period of time. You keep having to tell yourself, ‘If you get the opportunity, eventually you’ll be able to show what you could do again like you did in that second year of Skip Barber. It was a long wait, so to do that now was pretty special.”
The victory capped an excellent weekend for Heistand and the No. 14 team. In qualifying, Heistand scored the first Motul Pole Award of his career in impressive fashion.
“Mid-Ohio was kind of his breakthrough moment,” Hawksworth said. “He really came out of the blocks strong at the beginning of the weekend. He was strong in practice, and he put a stellar lap together in qualifying in tricky conditions when the track was drying up.
“Any racing driver will tell you those are very, very hard conditions when you’re on slick tires and the track’s still damp. He did a fantastic job.”
As Hawksworth was quick to credit Heistand’s performance in qualifying, Heistand attributed the team’s victory to Hawksworth’s performance as the team’s “closer” at Mid-Ohio. He made a bold pass to take the lead and then held off a hard-charging Mario Farnbacher in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 over the closing laps to earn the victory.
“I felt really happy for Jack because I think everyone knows what a fast driver he is,” Heistand said. “He had two full seasons in the car, and the other car won a couple races, and he hadn’t even been on a podium yet. The fact that we were able to go out and get a win was pretty cool for him.”
Ever the team player, Hawksworth wouldn’t have minded if his teammates in the No. 12 Lexus, Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo, would have taken the victory. Establishing AIM Vasser Sullivan and Lexus as a winning program was most important to him.
“Regardless of whether the 12 car won or the 14 car won, I would have been happy because it’s a team effort,” he said. “We’re all here vying for the same thing. Obviously, I’m pleased that I got to stand on the podium. I was thrilled with that. But at the end of the day, it really is a team effort, and everybody involved in the team is part of that victory.”
And with their first victory now in the books, the mission from here is to keep winning and compete for GTD championships. Hawksworth and Heistand lead the standings for the inaugural, seven-race WeatherTech Sprint Cup title, and are currently third in the 10-race WeatherTech Championship GTD standings behind the leading No. 86 Acura team of Farnbacher and Trent Hindman, and second-place Bell and Montecalvo.
“To say we’re already second and third in the points, I think it bodes really well for the rest of the season,” Hawksworth said. “It’s been impressive. To me, it’s just awesome to be a part of it. I’m just looking forward to more success.
It felt so good on the weekend to get that win, and once you’ve had that taste of victory, you just want to get back out there and get to the next race and try to do it again. I’m already kind of frothing at the mouth to try to do this again.”
He and Heistand will get their chance on Saturday, June 1 in Detroit for the 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, featuring only the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and GTD classes. Tickets are available now at DetroitGP.com.
NBCSN will televise the race live beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET, with live coverage also available via IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.