GP3's Kiwi ace Mitch Evans clicks up a level

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 14/10/2012
Mitch Evans
Peter Meecham/FAIRFAX NZ
ON THE RISE: World GP3 champion Mitch Evans speaks to media at a press conference in Auckland.

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It's time for young Kiwi motor ace Mitch Evans to get serious again in his quest to nail down a GP2 drive for next year.

The 18-year-old has been having plenty of fun on his whirlwind visit home since sensationally winning the GP3 title.

There's been a hectic media schedule where he's fronted everyone from specialist motoring magazines to mainstream newspapers, from breakfast TV to sports talkback and filmed his own documentary.

He's mixed with New Zealand's Olympic rowing gold medallists and taken in a Breakers basketball game. He even had time to drop in on the set of Shortland Street.

And last Friday he got behind the wheel of the V8 Supertourer raced by his older brother Scott, blasting out a few laps at Hampton Downs.

"Four years ago when I was aged 15 I did a test for Kelly Racing in a V8 Supercar in Australia but ever since then I've been focused on single seaters," Evans said.

"It's an awesome machine and it was good to briefly experience Simon's style of racing."

Team 4 Holden is managed by Mitch's father, Owen, a veteran of touring and sports car racing in New Zealand. The car was being given a brief shakedown in preparation for the V8 Supertourer races at Pukekohe on October 27-28.

"The team were running in a new differential in preparation for their next race. Dad did a couple of warm-up laps and then invited me to try Simon's car for a few gentle laps." Evans heads back to Europe tomorrow night for a hectic schedule and the serious business of sorting out his future.

First up is the honour of testing the new powered-up GP3 cars in France. As reigning champ, the developers are keen on his feedback before they are introduced next season. But then he faces the crucial GP2 tests with Arden in Spain on October 30-31 and a month later on November 22-23.

GP2, which is nestled just below Formula One, is the next step for Evans and he's desperate to impress.

He has connections with Arden after racing the GP3 series under their wing with his Mark Webber-backed team.

Arden finished second in the GP2 team standings while the champion DAMS team are also courting him.

Evans faces finding more backers to top up the $3m budget required to get a drive. He has around two-thirds of that as the price of the drive increases dramatically from where he's just been crowned champion.

So do the pressures in the driver's seat. The GP2 cars are significantly more powerful, featuring four-litre, V8 612 horsepower engines capable of 330kmh. The one-hour races are twice as long and they involve tyre choices and pit strategy.

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There are also four more events with a 12-event series raced as curtain-raisers to the Formula One Grand Prix events, taking in Asia and not just Europe.

"I'm really looking forward to racing on some tracks I've only played on PlayStation," Evans said with a grin.

"The GP2s are going to be a lot more demanding physically.

"With no power steering they are very tough on your neck and arms. I've been training hard to make sure I'm fit for the test drives because . . . it will be brutal."

- Sunday Star Times

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