Motorsport: Odds on GP2 drive for Mitch Evans

By Eric Thompson

Mitch Evans basks in the glow of winning his maiden European championship. Photo / LAT Photographic
Mitch Evans basks in the glow of winning his maiden European championship. Photo / LAT Photographic

The newly crowned 2012 GP3 champion New Zealander Mitch Evans is on his way to a well-earned holiday with family and friends after a dramatic season finale at Monza, Italy.

The 18-year-old won his maiden European championship with a DNF and a 20th place, such was his consistency during the season. Despite the odd non-points scoring race, Evans had more wins and more poles than any other driver in the series and as such is a worthy champion.

Even by his own admission, Evans knows this is just the start of a whole new chapter in his journey to reach the blue riband of motor racing - Formula One. He has a few hefty decisions to make in the ensuing weeks and months as to where he next takes his not inconsiderable racing talents.

By winning the GP3 title he receives a cheque for $400,000, which can only be used to go towards a GP2 campaign in 2013. It's odds on that's where we'll be seeing Evans race next, as his MW Arden GP3 team, part-owned by Mark Webber, also has an Arden GP2 team.

Evans is the first of the MW Arden pilots to win since Webber got involved three years ago and the first to pick up a championship for Arden since 2004. Therefore, one would think the management of Arden would be churlish to let such a certified championship winner slip through their fingers.

Another rather large plus for Evans to remain with Arden is that his mentor and manager is one Mark Webber, who has guided the young Kiwi since he saw him race while at the Australian Grand Prix back in 2009. Evans put pen to paper with the Webber folk the next year and, as they say, the rest is history.

"The championship was for the whole team really, everyone put their hearts and souls into it. They deserved it very much," said Evans.

"I know how much it means to win the championship for Mark [Webber] and the rest of the team as they believed in me since the start.

"It means the world to me to win the title for them and the Giltraps as well. They gave me the opportunity and I can't thank them enough - without them, and a lot of others, I wouldn't be here. It was very special. Obviously I'm doing something right at the moment but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. The climb is going to just get steeper and I've still got a lot to learn.

"It hasn't fully sunk in yet, if I was being honest. The weekend was crazy especially during the last race when the title was mine, then it wasn't, then it was, then it wasn't and finally we got it, crazy man!"

All the GP3 rounds have been a support category for the Formula One races and as the circus heads to Singapore for round 14 Evans will also be there. This time he's not racing, he's there as a guest of Webber, and as a champion there will be more than a little interest in the New Zealander. And it won't all just be a bit of backslapping.

Webber's Monza race was one he'll probably like to forget, but at least he had the pleasure of watching his young charge win the GP3 title.

"I know how hard Mitch has worked and the amount of effort he's put in and it's great to see him win the championship," said Webber. "Mitch deserved the championship and I know he had a few hiccups along the way and I know how much it means to him."

The F1 paddock is the place for young drivers to be seen and hopefully meet someone who has a chequebook handy. For anyone who wants to compete at the elite international level of sport, $400,000 is not a lot of money to campaign a whole year.

For Evans to make a competitive step up into GP2 he'll need at least $2 million. While he has Webber, the Giltrap Group, Geni, Mako, Banklink, the Club 5000 and a few others in his corner, he'll still need a number of other backers if he's going to make a serious tilt at muscling his way into F1.

"In one way nothing will really change. When you're an athlete and training hard you can't stop. I've still got to carry on with my training regardless of what happens in the immediate future.

"I'm already looking forward to my next ambition, which will probably be GP2, but nothing has been set in concrete."

GP3 has only been in existence for three years and already eight drivers have made the transition to the bigger, faster cars in GP2. Arden's big-brother team are doing nicely, or one of their drivers is, with one round left to go. Brazilian Luis Razia sits second in the championship. But their other driver, Swiss Simon Trummer, is languishing in 23rd.

No one in their right mind would predict what could happen in motorsport, but if Evans can find the backing there might be a seat at the Arden outfit in 2013.

"I hope I can organise some more backing," he said. "You never know what can happen. The start of the next season is a long way off yet and there's a lot to get done in the meantime, including my GP2 test at the end of October.

"It would be great, though, to be in the same paddock [Arden GP2] next season," said Evans. "There is a long way to go before the start of next season. Right now I just want to soak it up and enjoy the next few months before testing starts."

- NZ Herald

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