Jess Hawkins has enjoyed a spectacular return to racing with a truly dominant weekend in the MINI Challenge at Snetterton. Competing for just the second time in the last two seasons, Jess instantly found her groove with the Mini Cooper by taking pole position for the opening race of the weekend. Hawkins then went on to take two victories from the first two races, before collecting a further podium result in the final race of the weekend where she started in the midfield after a reverse grid.
Jess had shown good speed in the test sessions leading up to the opening weekend, but she would only know her pace in comparison to her competitors in qualifying. After some earlier rain, the track was dry for the 15 minute session with Hawkins immediately going to the top of the charts after the opening laps. As the session progressed, Jess continued to improve her times and extend her lead atop the times, utilising the slipstream to her advantage with two lengthy straights on the Snetterton 200 circuit. Despite a late challenge from her competitors, Hawkins set another new fastest lap time as the checkered flag was out to claim her first pole position on her Mini Challenge debut.
Race one took place later in the afternoon with Jess making a fantastic start from pole position to lead the opening lap. However, with the slipstream offering around one second a lap to the drivers behind, Hawkins was unable to make her escape and was being reeled in by a pack of drivers eager to take top spot. With some excellent defensive driving, Jess fended off several laps of pressure before rival Hammond leaked oil on the track to break up the chasing pack. This left Jess to defend from Newman which she was able to do, slowly extending her lead in the closing stages. With a flawless lights-to-flag victory, Hawkins took her first ever victory in the Mini Challenge, showing her talent by taking the honours on her debut race.
Starting from pole position in race two courtesy of her win the previous day, Jess was hoping to claim her second victory in as many races, but this time on a damp track. Hawkins once again made a good start and built a sizeable gap after the opening lap while her rivals squabbled over the remaining podium sports. Jess may have thought she was in luck when Weller, Poole and Newman came together behind her on lap two, however this resulted in a safety car which eroded a large lead which had resulted from the incident. Nevertheless, Hawkins got a perfect restart and was managing the race superbly out front, with Sam Weller closing in behind her. On the final lap, Weller made a move for the lead but Jess was able to hold on, claiming her second victory by less than one tenth of a second in a thrilling Mini Challenge race.
Going for a clean sweep of the weekend was set to be a challenge, with a reverse grid draw meaning Jess would start the third race from fifth place on the grid. Making a clean start, Hawkins held her position after lap one before moving up into fourth by the end of lap two. Continuing to apply the pressure, Jess showed her speed by moving up into a podium position on the third lap. After fending off Richard Newman, Hawkins made gains on the leaders before closing up to top pair by the end of lap six. Despite her best efforts, Jess was unable to make any further progress but another podium finish was a fantastic end to the best weekend of her car racing career.
Despite her lack of competitive racing experience in recent times, Jess showed no race rustiness as she displayed great defensive skills in the opening two races, before proving she can overtake successfully by fighting through to third in race three. A superb haul of points means Jess sits atop the championship standings after the first meeting and will be looking forward to the next round which takes place at Silverstone.