Although many people may not realise it, New Zealand has produced some considerable racing talent over the years.
Young drivers such as recent Toyota Racing Series champion Nick Cassidy, Brendan Hartley and Richie Stanaway have followed the paths of notables, such as Chris Amon (Le Mans and Tasman Series champion), Scott Dixon (twice IndyCar champion) and 1984 Formula Two champion Mike Thackwell.
One must not forget, of course, New Zealand’s sole world champion Denny Hulme, who claimed the crown in 1967 with Brabham.
The latest in a long line of Kiwi drivers charging to the top is 17-year-old Auckland native Mitch Evans.
There can be little doubt that Evans certainly has some pedigree. Last year at the age of 16, he became the youngest winner of the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix, wrapping up his second Toyota Racing Series crown in the process.
A move to GP3 with the MW Arden team – run by Formula 1 driver Mark Webber and Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner – brought one race win and 9th in the series standings, falling only seven points shy of 3rd spot through what was a very tight season.
Evans stays with MW Arden for the 2012 season – a campaign that has already shown promise, with some strong runs in pre-season testing; however one does not score points or race wins in testing.
Following the opening test at Estoril, I caught up with Evans as he prepares for the coming season.
Since then, the 17-year-old participated in the second pre-season GP3 test of the year in Barcelona, securing the fastest lap on Monday and finishing 3rd yesterday.
The Motorsport Archive: Last year, you came to Europe to race in the GP3 Series with MW Arden. How did you find the transition from the likes of Australian Formula 3 and the Toyota Racing Series with regards to competition, environment, etc..?
Mitch Evans: The transition was difficult as expected, the competition is very good back home but it just doesn’t have the depth as Europe.
Last year fifteen + cars could have won a race easily. Environment wise is a lot different, the atmosphere is incredible at the Formula 1 events. To race in front of massive crowds is amazing.
TMA: I am led to believe the GP3 machine has a higher power output, but is also heavier – with the likes of F3 and TRS in mind; could you describe the characteristics of a GP3 car? Did it take long to settle in to this type of car?
Evans: Yes the GP3 car is a lot bigger than the likes of F3 and TRS, it is quite a bit quicker and is also heavier, it has a similar amount of downforce to an F3 car which makes the GP3 car a bit trickier to drive in the high speed corners especially because the cars travelling quicker and is heavier than F3.
A GP3 car is about 3-5 seconds quicker than F3 and probably 8-10 seconds quicker than a TRS car on a grand prix circuit.
TMA: After a very solid first half season in 2011 – including a win in Barcelona – it appeared, from the outside at least, to fall away from you as the year progressed. From your perspective, could you describe your first year in GP3?
Evans: The first half of the championship was awesome, we led after round 3. We continued to have the pace right throughout the championship,
I was on average the best qualifier in the field with an average of 4th but the amount of bad luck we had with mechanical failures was just horrendous, a lot of things out of our control went wrong.
TMA: What lessons can be taken from that campaign that you can use in 2012?
Evans: Lots of lessons can be taken into 2012, just a whole lot of things I learnt as I was very inexperienced. Speed is there, just need consistency and some luck.
TMA: You are staying with MW Arden through 2012. In what ways do you feel that can be turned into an advantage against your competitors?
Evans: I believe it can be turned into an advantage because I have worked with the MW Arden boys before,
I know them all very well, the car was very competitive last year so I believe if we can start as strong as we did last year which I think we can, that should be an advantage us over the others.
TMA: Few will know that the “MW” in MW Arden is Red Bull Formula 1 racer Mark Webber. Has Mark had much of an influence on your career and if so, can you give an indication of the type of lessons passed on and influence he has had?
Evans: Mark has had a big influence on my career over the last 14 months especially, I learn more off him off track to be honest. We train a lot together and hang out casually as I live basically at the end of his drive way.
He has handed a few valuable tips over to me which he has learnt over the many years he’s been involved in the sport, which has obviously been massively beneficial for me.
TMA: What can viewers of the GP3 Series expect from Mitch Evans in 2012?
Evans: A lot of aggression, I will not be leaving anything on the circuit, I will be pushing 100% for the championship.
The next GP3 pre-season test takes place at Silverstone on April 11th -12th. The opening race of the season takes place at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya over the weekend of May 12th and 13th, as support to the Spanish Grand Prix.
My sincere thanks to Mitch Evans for his time with this Q&A session.