KIWI DRIVER MITCH EVANS READY TO HAVE A BETTER GP2 YEAR THIS TIME
When the drivers in the GP2 season line up in Bahrain this weekend for the opening race of their championship there will be two New Zealanders on the grid.
Newcomer to the category is Richie Stanaway, while Mitch Evans is returning to GP2. Stanaway has been confirmed only for the opening round of the series and certainly looks more than capable of challenging the front-runners, especially after posting some pretty competitive lap times in testing.
However, it will be Evans who most Kiwi fans will be keeping an eye on as he too set some quick times, at one stage being fastest on the day. There have been a few personal changes in his Russian Time racing team since last year, chief among them a new engineer.
“It was good to get the deal done and be able to race again this year,” Evans said. “We had a good year last year with Russian Time and although the operation has changed a bit we’re hoping to better this time.
“I’ve got a new engineer, but my No1 mechanic, and others, are still the same, so that’s good. We’ve been doing a fair amount of testing and it’s looking good so far. We do have the data from last year and it’s just a matter of getting on top of things and staying competitive. We had no data for last year and struggled a bit, but managed to get on top of things so it’ll be better this year.”
Last year Evans gained two points in the first four races. Things picked up in Monaco, slumped again, and then picked up towards the end of the championship.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. When the car, team and Evans were on song, wins and podiums came their way to allow him to end the season in fourth place.
“Although it was a bit frustrating at times last year, I did enjoy my time with the team,” said Evans. “We’re all looking to do better this year and we want to kick the season off well and be fighting for podiums from the start of the season, pick up points and be more consistent with race wins. “It’s incredibly hard to win in GP2 as everyone is so competitive. We want to win the championship and to do that that you have to win consistently, so that’s the goal.”
In final preseason testing two weeks ago at Bahrain, the same Sakhir track he’s racing on this weekend, Evans set the fastest time in the morning and was pipped only by Jordan King in the afternoon.
“Testing was good and we ended last season well but you can’t look to the past. It’s a new season and the car has changed a bit with DRS and tyres.
“The car hasn’t changed that much other than you arrive at a corner a bit faster.
“We still don’t really know that the cars are going to be like all together racing hard.
“Six days of pre-season testing may seem a lot, but you’re restricted by the number of tyres you can use.
“Having said that, this is the best I’ve felt going into the start of a GP2 season and I feel really confident we can do well. The car feels really good and the real test will be in the first race. I’m confident we can do well.”
The biggest leap forward with the 2015 car has been the introduction of a Drag Reduction System (DRS) similar to that found in Formula One.
Evans likes the new feel of the car, especially the braking, downforce and ride height.
“It’s the same for all the teams and after testing we’ve all got a better understanding of how it all works. Some teams have got on top of how the car is different than others and we’re positive we’ve got it pretty much sorted.”