Webber’s protege, GP2’s Evans, adapting well to sports car world ahead of Le Mans

1 Comment

LE MANS, France – New Zealand hasn’t had a top-flight Formula 1 star in many years.

One day, 20-year-old GP2 driver Mitch Evans of Russian Time might become that man.

But for now, he’s making a brief side step into sports car racing and has already delivered on debut.

Evans shared the No. 38 Jota Sport Gibson 015S Nissan with Harry Tincknell and Simon Dolan at the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps last month, and won in his first ever sports car start.

“It was quite bizarre to be honest,” Evans told MotorSportsTalk at scrutineering in Le Mans this week. “It was my first WEC race I was at. I know Spa very well, but it was a new environment with teams and cars. It’s all a bit strange.

“But to come home with a win was fantastic. I didn’t expect it, didn’t have any reference to have a great debut. It’s the whole team that did it. Hopefully we can continue that into Le Mans.”

With Tincknell moving into the factory Nissan GT-R LM NISMO for Le Mans, Oliver Turvey will rejoin the team’s lineup for Le Mans. For Evans, another single-seat rising star branching out, he’s adapting well to the multiple driver, multiple class format.

“Fortunately I’ve had a lot of experienced people tell me the differences,” he said. “I was sort of anticipating that type of change to adapt to. A lot of drivers struggle with sharing cars, with the compromise of sports car racing. In Spa I found it was pretty straightforward.”

Evans didn’t hide his impressions of how much he appreciates the sports car paddock.

“It’s a lot more positive, with a lot less egos. It’s very friendly,” Evans said. “With the manufacturers involved, that makes it great.

“It’s all the top manufacturers in the world. There’s such a different vibe. There’s much better interaction with the fans.

“We don’t have that in GP2. We’re sort of locked away in our cage. In a way, it sucks a bit to be honest. The vibe in sports car racing seems to be very positive at the moment.”

Evans draws much inspiration and support from Mark Webber, his mentor. Webber has played an integral role in Evans’ development as he transitioned from New Zealand into Europe.

“It’s been huge. It’s my fifth year here,” Evans said. “When I first made the transition to Europe from New Zealand, it was huge for his experience to give it to me.

“You fast forward all the preparation for the transition, GP2 when he was in F1, and now sports cars when he was in LMP1, I have so much experience even before I’ve driven in the championship. It’s been great. He’s one of the top guys and he’s very professional. I’m very fortunate.”

They’ll share the same track this week as Webber races in the No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid in LMP1, with Evans looking to go two-for-two in his first two sports car races.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.