Hustling some of the fan-favourite machines from the Fast & Furious franchise around an arena, more often streaking sideways rather than forwards, may not be the most obvious discipline to aid a race weekend in rural Norfolk. But the transition seemed to work for stunt driver Jessica Hawkins at Snetterton.
The 23-year-old Brit had not raced since last year when she competed in the Mini Challenge, but the evidence suggests she has lost none of her competitive nous following a star performance in the Volkswagen Racing Cup at the weekend.
Hawkins had a stellar campaign in the Mini Challenge Pro class in 2017, finishing second in the standings with five wins, and only failing to take the crown because of dropped scores.
She was duly picked up by the new
Fast & Furious Live show, in which she has been driving a healthy mix of American muscle cars, sportscars and other souped-up machines.
But the opportunity to help Allumy Motorsport develop its VW Golf proved irresistible. “It’s probably just for this round because of work commitments with
Fast and Furious Live, which is my priority, but it’s nice to come and do one-offs when the time allows,” she said.
“It’s a big step up, and it took a couple of sessions to get my head around it.”
You wouldn’t know it from her prowess on track, having only stepped into the car for the first time during Friday’s test.
A strong qualifying on Saturday put her second on the grid and she spent the first race fending off the likes of Dennis Strandberg and experienced British Touring Car Championship campaigner Martin Depper.
Strandberg used his superior pace to get ahead of her for second, but it was the five laps during which Hawkins frustrated Depper that stood out most of all.
Carefully positioning her Golf on the inside lines through Riches, Wilson and Agostini, Hawkins was able to hold off Depper until the final lap, when a slight touch put her wide at Wilson.
“We’ve got some understeer, so we’ve been trying to lose some grip off the rear all weekend,” she said. “In the race as soon as the heat comes in it struggles really badly. But I’m here for the team, to do some development for them. I’m not here to finish fourth – I’m here to win.”
Despite those understeer frustrations, it was clear that Hawkins could jump into an unfamiliar car, make improvements in the set-up and immediately hit the ground running as a fierce competitor.
So how much has the stunt-driving work helped? “I think everything like that is helpful,” she said. “The more driving you do is helpful, whether it’s drifting, stunt driving, racing – it’s the same set of skills, just using them in a different way and adapting them to what you do.
“At Fast & Furious Live we get to do a lot of driving, and the show is incredible – it’s groundbreaking what you can do in such a small space.”
Working tyres into their optimum range, controlling the car under braking and setting the car up in a way that is to your liking: such skills, as Hawkins attests, are all transferrable. And that goes some way to explaining why she looked so at ease behind the wheel of the VW Golf GTI.
And while Hawkins’s outing was curtailed early thanks to the bonnet flipping up and smashing the windscreen in race two, it’s still clear that her day job has made her both fast and furious on the race track too.