Jaxon Evans is the latest young Kiwi driver to make a name for himself overseas. The Australian-based Kiwi, who only turns 21 next week, has been turning heads in Australia in recent months with his performances in the Porsche Carrera Cup and the Australian Endurance Championship (AEC).
Evans and fellow Kiwi, Tim Miles, lead the AEC with two wins from the opening two rounds. The pair will have the chance to wrap up the championship on home soil when the Australian GTs visit New Zealand for the final two rounds of the season at the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500 (October 27-29) and the Highlands 501 in Cromwell (November 10-12).
"I love getting back to New Zealand for any reason but to get the chance to race cars around Hampton Downs and Highlands is even better," says Evans. "We're just waiting on one final piece of the puzzle to fall into place but we're 99 percent there. We never originally intended to come over for the New Zealand rounds due to budget constraints and other racing commitments but leading the championship after two rounds is a good excuse to make the trip. We've come this far so we may as well push on and try and win the championship."
Evans, who was born in Levin and spent the first nine years of his life in Ashburton before moving to the Gold Coast, has petrol in his veins. His grandfather, Rob Lester was a three-times national Formula Vee champion and one of the founders of the Manfeild race circuit in the Manawatu. His mother, Debbie Lester raced during the the 1980s and '90s and his father John Evans was a mechanic for Andy McElrea, a multiple New Zealand Formula Ford champion for many years.
"My first memories of motorsport were going to the track with my Dad, my uncle and my Grandad to watch my cousin Jono Lester racing," says Evans, who is no relation to Mitch Evans, another of the golden generation of young Kiwi drivers. "It's always been a part of my life."
Evans didn't sit behind the wheel of a go-kart until he moved to Australia.
"I wouldn't say I set the world on fire in my first race meeting but I kept chipping away at it," says Evans. "It started off as a family thing, something to do with my Dad and my brother, but once I started going half alright I started to take it more seriously and became a bit more professional."
He finished second in the 2014 New Zealand Pro-Kart KZ2 series behind Daniel Bray and that helped him make his mind up where his future lay.
"I played some rugby union in school but when it came time to decide if I wanted to put on some weight and bulk up to play rugby or stay slim to race go-karts I choose motorsport. From the age of 17 I've been solely focused on making a career out of motorsport. I'm trying to give it a good nudge while I've got the opportunity."
His family connections have helped. Evans races for Andy McElrea and his McElrea Racing team and he's impressed in every series he's raced in. In 2015 he competed in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge in Australia and finished second in the series in his rookie season. In 2016 he was promoted to the 'A Class' Cup Challenge car where he again had to settle for second in the championship after a costly DNF in one race.
He made his first Australian GT start at the Highlands 101 last November and impressed with his raw speed. This year he's stepped up to the Carrera Cup series and he proved his pedigree by winning three of three races at the Darwin round in July. Evans has been even more impressive in the AEC where he shares the driving duties with Tim Miles.
"Tim, Andy and my old man John have been close mates since they went to school together," says Evans. "We planned to do some racing with Tim in the AEC this year in a Lamborghini. Unfortunately he put the car in a fence at Clipsal earlier in the year and destroyed it. Luckily he was able to organise a drive with Audi and he offered me a steer in that and we've just gone from there. We're racing an Audi R8 which is a bit of a weapon. It's very different to the Porsche but it's working out really well."
How does the Carrera Cup compare to the AEC?
"The race formats are completely different. Carrera Cup races only last 30 minutes or so. The endurance races are closer to 3 hours and it brings in that team element, not only having a co-driver but the importance of pit stops."
"In the first round of the AEC at Phillip Island I jumped into a car I'd only driven once before and never in wet conditions. I drove out of the pits and went through turn one before ending up off the track at turn two. That wasn't the greatest start but I managed to keep the car moving and I got back on track and when the laps ran out we found ourselves at the front which was good."
"Sydney was another good result. We had a car hunting us down over the closing laps but we got home in the end."
Speaking of home, Evans is looking forward to the trip across the Tasman and seeing some familiar faces at the race track. His mother's family still lives in Palmerston North and his uncle Jono is in Auckland. He's also looking forward to his first race on the new international circuit at Hampton Downs.
"I've driven the old circuit at Hampton Downs in a Toyota 86 but driving a GT car on the new circuit will be a very different experience. Hopefully it won't take too long for me to get my bearings. Tim raced there last year so I'm sure he can give me some pointers and I'm looking forward to having a crack."
"Highlands is my favourite track. You couldn't put a race track in a better location and it's got a bit of everything really. I really enjoy racing there."
While he's looking forward to the trip home, Evans is determined to get his first championship win under his belt.
"We've got to where we are now through a lot of hard work so we won't be slacking off. It certainly won't be a holiday for me. We'll be going there to win the championship."
Longer term he has his sights set on Europe.
"I haven't locked in plans for next year but I'm hoping to have another crack at Carrera Cup. I'd also love the opportunity to race GTs overseas at some stage. Following in Earl Bamber's or Brendon Hartley's footsteps is the dream."