Jess Hawkins has enjoyed another successful weekend in the Mini Challenge, this time at Rockingham. The Excelr8 Motorsport driver claimed her fifth victory of the season with a dominant lights-to-flag performance in race one, after maintaining her faultless qualifying record. A reverse grid in race two saw Hawkins cross the line in third after starting in fourth, however a post-race penalty pushed the championship leader down into fifth position. Nonetheless, it was another excellent weekend for Hawkins who also maintains her advantage atop the Sunoco 240 Challenge standings which will enable her to drive at Daytona if she is able to consolidate her lead.
Following testing on Friday, Jess knew qualifying on Saturday morning was set to be the most crucial to date with just two races during the weekend and high tyre wear at Rockingham. From the outset, Hawkins was the driver to beat as she vaulted to the top of the time sheets after her first sequence of laps. Challenges from Owen Walton and Richard Newman kept Jess on her toes, but she found further improvements throughout the session to claim another pole position with excellent one lap pace. Hawkins should also be encouraged by her consistency in qualifying with her best six laps within seventh tenths of her best, an impressive showing at a circuit with greater tyre degradation.
The opening race of the weekend took place shortly after lunch with a busy schedule in order to complete the two races planned for the day. Jess made a fantastic start and led the opening lap from pole position, also building up a gap of over a second ahead of her closest challenger. Owen Walton was in hot pursuit and his extra experience of competing at Rockingham earlier in the year was paying dividends as he set the fastest lap of the race. Despite getting the gap down to under a second, Hawkins was always in control and stretched out the gap in the closing stages to take her fifth victory of the season and extend her championship lead with Walton and Sam Weller completing the podium.
With just two races taking place at Rockingham, the reverse grid race was the second and final of the weekend with Jess drawn out to start fourth on the grid. Maintaining her position after the opening lap, Hawkins was running closely with the lead group in the early exchanges. A close battle with Martin Poole and Sam Weller saw positions being exchanged between the three drivers, with Jess re-emerging in fourth as the safety car was deployed at the end of lap five. Just one lap remained when the racing resumed with Hawkins capitalising on a strong restart to overtake Poole and claim a well-deserved podium place. Unfortunately, a post-race penalty dropped Jess to fifth position, but it was still another positive weekend in the Mini Challenge which saw Hawkins collect her fifth victory of the season.
Jess has continued to pick up valuable championship points in every round this season, driving smartly in the reverse grid races to ensure she never strays too far from her rivals. Her impressive record of finishing every one of the eight races this year is particularly notable which highlights her championship credentials. The next round of the Mini Challenge takes place at Brands Hatch, an extremely familiar venue for Jess where she will hope to extend her championship lead as part of the Brands Hatch Mini Festival.