Evans, Bamber in Toyota Racing Series battle
With a Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup test drive and $10,000 for the champion at stake, this weekend's final round of the Toyota Racing Series (TRS) at Taupo will be a battle royale between hungry teenagers Mitch Evans and Earl Bamber.
Aucklander Evans, 15, leads the series on 721 points after four rounds while Wanganui's New Zealand Grand Prix champion Bamber, 19, is second on 687 points.
But with three races over the weekend and 75 points available to the winner of each, it is still anybody's championship.
The 34 points seperating the pair are just one more than is available for finishing 10th in a race.
Points available for Taupo mean that mathematically Auckland's Andrew Waite, fourth on 626 points, and Taumarunui's Daniel Jileson, sixth on 529 points, are also championship contenders.
Evans, a St Kentigern's College schoolboy who has never been to Europe, said he had endured an "up and down season" but said he has learnt what it will take to win the title.
"I've shown good pace but there have been a few dramas that have cost me good results.
"I've learnt heaps in TRS, but the main lesson is that you can't win every race.
"This weekend I need to be ahead or right behind Earl in all three races - and make sure I don't make any mistakes," Evans said.
"We've got good pace so I just need to make sure we get good results."
Bamber said after a sluggish start to the season, he would be aiming to win all three races this weekend.
It wasn't until after winning the last race -- the NZGP at Manfeild, near Feilding in the Manawatu -- that his doctor diagnosed him as suffering from glandular fever since the opening races at Teretonga, near Invercargill in January.
"Mitch has been doing a good job and has been on pole at every race while my new team has been getting the performance of our car sorted. At Taupo we need to be quick from the outset," Bamber said.
"I'm feeling a lot more confident because we have developed our setup and have found more pace.
"I've moved forward 30 places in the races over the season, so I've done a lot of passing."
Both the ambitious teens have each won three races of 12 over the first four rounds during a tense season.
Evans clinched the International Trophy title (contested over the four International rounds in January and February) at their most recent confrontation at Manfeild.
But Bamber upstaged him in a dramatic late charge to snatch the coveted NZGP win at Manfeild in February.
The Renault 2.0 test in October will be similar to the opportunity grasped by Brendon Hartley in 2005.
The one-off European test launched the Palmerston North driver into a Red Bull junior development squad contract and has led to his role as a reserve driver for both the Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso teams in Formula 1.