Jessica Hawkins will deputise for Andy Neate in the next round of the British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton, with Neate citing ‘personal reasons’ for the driver change.
Hawkins, 26, made her BTCC début last year when she raced in the Norfolk round of the championship with Power Maxed Racing on a single-event deal.
The W Series racer will now return to the grid for the second event of the 2021 BTCC after Neate elected to step back from driving for the weekend due to ‘personal reasons’.
Neate had been involved in a significant crash at the previous round at Thruxton, for which he was later penalised for ‘driving in a manner incompatible with general safety’.
Motorbase Performance regular Neate has vowed to return to the driving seat for the third event at Brands Hatch.
“Following on from what can only be described as a bitterly disappointing season opener at Thruxton, and more pertinently the aftermath that has followed, I have personally taken the decision to take a short sabbatical from the BTCC at Snetterton,” said Neate.
“However, in avoidance of any doubt, I will be returning behind the wheel of the Motorbase Ford Focus at Brands in June.
“I will take this time to regroup and remind myself of my confidence and the extremely competitive pre-season testing we have demonstrated; I’m really looking forward to Brands Hatch.
“I could not personally think of anyone more qualified, talented nor deserving of a chance than Jess Hawkins.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Jess; it gave me so much joy to call her up and ask her to take my seat for Snetterton.
“Jess is a fantastic British talent and I know she has full-time BTCC aspirations too. I hope this opportunity I can give her will be the platform for her to secure a spot on the grid in the not-so-distant future.”
Hawkins admitted to expressing surprise that Neate had asked her to take his seat for the next round of the championship in just under two weeks’ time.
“Having known Andy and his family for a good few years, I received a call from him last week asking if I was available on the weekend of the next round of the BTCC,” said Hawkins.
“I did not expect his response to be ‘I would quite like to sit Snetterton out, and I’d really like to put you in the car’.
“Obviously, he didn’t need to ask twice! Shocked and speechless at the time, I am humbled to be on the receiving end of Andy’s generosity – I’ll do my best to make the Neates and the team at Motorbase proud.
“I’m extremely excited to be making a return to the BTCC at Snetterton after my debut there in 2020.”
Pete Osborne, Motorbase Team Principal, backed the decision taken by Neate after he was involved in a three-car crash at Thruxton with Jade Edwards and Glynn Geddie.
“Obviously losing Andy for a round of the championship this season wasn’t part of the plan and the decision has not been taken lightly,” added Osborne.
“We totally understand and respect Andy’s position. It has been a difficult decision to take a break and get himself in a position to fulfil his own potential, but I’m 100% certain that it’s the right one.
“I can’t think of a better replacement for Snetterton than Jessica and I admire Andy for choosing to give her the chance to show the BTCC what she can achieve. It goes without saying, we will be giving both Jessica and Andy our full support.”