New Zealand motor-racing ace Mitch Evans is braced for the fastest race of the season as he looks to wrap up the GP3 title in Italy this weekend.
The Aucklander, 18, has a 21.5-point advantage going into the eighth and final event of the season to be raced at the famous Monza track as part of the Italian Grand Prix carnival. With its long straights Monza will bring the most out the cars with Evans predicting drafting at 280kmh.
“Monza is very, very fast, it can throw up anything,” Evans said as he readied for practice and qualifying. “There will be drafting . . . it's going to be very exciting racing so it's going to be good for the crowd.
"Our cars produce a lot of slipstreaming because of the speeds they go at and the long straight. Monza can throw up a bit of a gamble but that's the way it is and the driver who makes the most of that will come out on top.”
The stakes are high for Evans, who is in his second year in one of the most demanding single-seater categories in the game. Victory in the series is likely to mean another step up in his quickfire career, possibly into GP2.
It will also keep him firmly in the sights of the Red Bull Formula One outfit. Evans' Arden team - backed by Aussie F1 ace Mark Webber - also run a GP2 team. That would seem the natural progression if funding can be found.
But first it is getting the job done in Italy.
The dangers of defending the series lead were hammered home to Evans last weekend in Belgium. He consolidated his position with a third in the first race, but then got involved in a tangle in the second race and dropped back with a damaged car to finish 15th and out of the points.
And Evans' Monza memories aren't that great either - last year he was leading the Italian race but was taken out by another car at the first chicane, three laps from the finish.
“You can't control the other drivers, when they make contact they or you can cop the damage,” Evans said.
“I just have to regroup for this weekend and have a good one. I hope we have a positive one. It's a good opportunity to get good points in race one ... we're looking to maximise those points in race one.”
A good opening race might be enough for Evans to claim the championship.
There are 48 points on offer at the final round - four points for the fastest qualifier and two points for fastest lap in each race. The first feature race win is worth 25 points and the second, raced under the ‘reverse top 8' system, sees the winner earn 15 points.
Evans, the youngest driver in the series, is the only one to win three races in the 2012 season, with victories at Barcelona, Valencia and Hockenheim. But he has Portugal's Antonio Felix da Costa chasing hard in the drivers' standings.
Finland's Aaro Vainio and Germany's Daniel Abt are also in the mix.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Bikers and drivers - pull yourselves together