Motorsport: Evans celebrates at holy grail of motor racing

Shane van Gisbergen taking pole at Pukekohe Park. Photo / Supplied
Shane van Gisbergen taking pole at Pukekohe Park. Photo / Supplied

Promising Kiwi single-seater racing driver Mitch Evans sprinted ahead of a huge first corner crash at the start of the Monaco GP2 feature race, held a slender lead until his compulsory pit stop and boldly defended third place all the way to the most famous podium in the motor racing world.

A different tyre strategy from his front-running rivals meant Evans, on super-soft tyres, struggled to hold off race winner Sam Bird in his opening stint but he had pace when he rejoined on a full set of soft Pirelli tyres. When Evans pitted, Bird took a lead to his own pit stop where he changed just two rear tyres and stayed on the soft compound. The Englishman won by 22 seconds.

The longer pit stop to change four tyres brought Evans out behind Kevin Ceccon but he stayed within a second of him for the rest of the 42-lap race in a tight battle for second that also involved Brazilian Felipe Nasr.

The Kiwi teen - at 18 the youngest driver in the 26 car field - started alongside his Arden International team mate Johnny Cecotto on the front row and led into the first corner at St Devote.

"Since qualifying I had been focusing on the start, getting a good launch and hopefully get in the lead. I got a really good start and managed to get the jump on Johnny. Then I saw that he was in the wall and I was not sure how many cars were involved in the accident."

Behind Evans there was chaos as Cecotto misjudged the corner and hit the barrier. The resulting collisions involved 15 cars and took out Cecotto, Fabio Leimer, Jolyon Palmer, Robin Frijns, Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi. The race was red-flagged.

The restart was suspended for over 30 minutes while the damaged cars were removed and the grid reset. Cecotto was one of the nine drivers unable to continue and race stewards have excluded the Venezuelan from the next day's sprint race.

Third place improves Evans to 10th overall in the GP2 points standings after four rounds and he is optimistic about the sprint race in which he will start sixth.

• Meanwhile, Kiwi ace Shane van Gisbergen emerged from a treacherous qualifying session to take his first BNT V8 SuperTourer pole position in the Brother 350 races at Pukekohe Park today.

Second was Scott McLaughlin, a race winner there in Supercars at the ITM 400 and happy to be back, this time aboard his Supercheap Auto Racing Holden. John McIntyre was an impressive third, his attacking style a joy to watch. Series leader Greg Murphy starts fourth.

The big three of Van Gisbergen, McLaughlin and Murphy made the early running with the first runs putting van Gisbergen ahead. Angus Fogg was right on the pace early on, though he was half a second or so off the leader's ultimate pace.

Simon McLennan, McIntyre and Ant Pedersen led momentarily but the big three were consistently at the front.

Though the really bad rain held off the drivers lapped some nine seconds slower than they had in dry free practice. A late spin into the tyre barrier on the standing water by Dominic Storey ended the session. At that point, van Gisbergen was ahead on a 1 minute 11.467s lap, from McLaughlin, a resurgent McIntyre and Murphy who had set the pace for most of the session before slipping back as the three ahead got extra runs in.

His main challenger for the title, Pedersen, lines up fifth, with Storey a solid sixth.

- Herald on Sunday

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