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Jaguar Racing Blog: Mitch Evans talks Diriyah ePrix

6 Mins read
Credit: Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Before we get going, let me introduce myself. I’m Mitch Evans, from New Zealand competing in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in my fourth season with Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

Before racing in Formula E, I made my way through the ranks, starting off in karts back home in New Zealand, before moving to the Toyota Racing Series in 2010, GP3 series in 2012 and then GP2 and LMP2 from 2013 until 2016. When Panasonic Jaguar Racing offered me a Formula E seat in 2016, it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss and I’m proud to say I’m still part of the team nearly four years down the line.

Last season, I got the sweet taste of champagne on the top step with my first Formula E victory in Rome – a moment we had been working hard towards for three years. As we wrapped season five, I ended up fifth. After some successful races, I’m hungry for more, as well as more champagne! This year, the team are going for more points, podiums and wins – I’ll be bringing my A-game, so let’s see how we end up next July in London for the season finale!

Pre-season preparation

Before I tell you more about Diriyah, the location for the season opener, let me give you a bit of background as to what I’ve been up to in the offseason. While it may seem like we get some quiet time off when the series ends in July, the hard work doesn’t stop. Over the summer I was training hard, ensuring I stay at a peak physical fitness level and maintaining a high level of performance.

The majority of my training takes place at home in Monaco. When training I focus on my physical fitness, and also my mental mindset and conditioning, ensuring I’m able to get in the right headspace when the lights go green. Not only do I focus on pushing my body to extremes, but sometimes it’s also about resting up and focussing on the task in hand. 

In October we had the season six launch for Panasonic Jaguar Racing at the new mega impressive Jaguar Design Studio in Gaydon. We showcased our all-new Jaguar I-TYPE 4 at the event, fresh out the box with that new race car smell. During our live launch, my task was to drive the new racecar through the crowd towards a rotating platform, a task within itself! When you’re driving a racecar in front of a crowd like that in an indoor space, there is no room for error! But don’t worry, I managed to wiggle through with room to spare!

Another change for season six was my new teammate, James Calado. Our launch event just got me really excited for the season to start, I was chomping at the bit to get out on the track. You can look back at the day here:

After the launch, I headed to the sim, working on some correlation work before flying to Valencia for pre-season testing at Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Not only was this a great opportunity to put the all-new I-TYPE 4 through its paces, but it was also great to get some kilometres in – there’s no replacement for seat time. James and I completed a grand total of 334 laps over the week, collecting a huge amount of data for our team to analyse. It also gave us the opportunity to run a race simulation which was hugely beneficial but personally, I thought it did get a bit too serious out there at times.

As athletes and race drivers, we all have a competitive streak (as you can imagine) and in this situation, I think we all got a bit carried away. During the race sim, there was a lot of contacts and subsequently, damage to not only my car but heaps of others. Despite this, the time out in Valencia was extremely valuable and we collated key data and lots of learnings to take with us to Diriyah. Moving forward, I’d like to think the FIA can do everything in their power to ensure race sims at pre-season tests doesn’t entice drivers to get into the back of each other which can result in unnecessary collisions and damage. We did another behind the scenes video at the test which you can watch here:

2019 Diriyah ePrix doubleheader – Friday

After all the hard work and prep during the offseason, I headed to Saudi Arabia for the doubleheader feeling positive and ready to hit the ground running. Friday 22 November saw the first race of season six go green. I was in qualifying group one, not ideal because you ultimately just run out as a track sweeper for the guys in the lower qualifying groups, the track was super dusty off line so choosing when to push was an art within itself. I ended up sixteenth, which wasn’t a huge surprise.

After qualifying and before the race started, I watched my big bro Simon Evans win the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY race, the official support series to Formula E. It’s great to have Simon travelling the world with me and watching him really inspired me.

When it came to my time to race, I managed to knuckle down and push on to gain six places, finishing the race in the points in P10 and with the fastest lap of the race. Taking all things into consideration, it felt like a great achievement to get two points for the team and I certainly can’t fault the pace of the I-TYPE 4, particularly after getting me a point for the fastest lap. The teams’ hard work really paid off. Doubleheaders are tough and book-end the Formula E season, so after the race on Friday, it was time to get my head down in preparation to do it all again the next day.

2019 Diriyah ePrix doubleheader – Saturday

Arriving at the track on Saturday I was ready to hit the ground running. Achieving P6 in qualifying put me through to my first Super Pole of the season. I was fourth quickest but received a penalty for a technical infringement and started the race sixth on the grid.

As the race began, things started to unravel. I was battling for a top-six finish; however, Formula E can be frustrating at times and I had a coming together with Sam (Bird). I was alongside him and personally, I felt like he didn’t give me enough room. As a racer, in those situations, I’m not going to back out. I ended up being squeezed into the wall, on top of that I was smacked with a puncture and a penalty for the coming together with Sam. I boxed to replace my damaged front wing, eventually crossing the line in eighteenth place.

It was a frustrating result as I believed my pace was good enough to take a step on the podium. I just couldn’t capitalise on my qualifying position and the race ended up being really hectic – one to forget. However, I have to give a quick shout out to my teammate James Calado who did a great job on track, qualifying twenty-first on the grid but securing tenth by the time the chequered flag fell. After a few post-race penalties were handed out, James managed to come in at seventh, scoring six points for the team – a great achievement for his first race weekend. Ultimately, there is a lot to learn from this race for both James and I, and a lot to take forward to Santiago in January. 

Credit: Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Regardless of my racing outcomes, we had a great time in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia and it was incredible to visit such a culturally rich country, that makes a huge effort when Formula E comes to town. We shot some cool photos at the Kingdom Tower. We were 99 floors up and I must admit resting on the windows for photos made me slightly nervous – I’m not really a fan of heights.

Back at the track, the photoshoot continued with a ‘What’s in the Kit’ pic; essentially a photo of all the kit I pack ahead of a race. These will be released soon so keep an eye out for them.

I have also just released my first set of personalised merch, which was a first for me! We worked hard on the designs and I was definitely impressed with the outcome and the quality. It was amazing how quickly some pieces sold out so a massive thank you to everyone who bought from the collection! If you haven’t seen already, go check it out here. Perfect gift for Christmas.

Now it’s time for more hard work and to get my head down for the next couple of weeks and I’m confident it will all pay off! I’m off back to New Zealand for Christmas so looking to press the reset button over the festive period. If you want to keep up with what I’m off to in-between races make sure you follow me on Instagram at @MitchEvans_. Fingers crossed and see you in Chile for another hot race I’m sure!

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The Checkered Flag was set up in August 2009 and is dedicated to providing independent daily news and features from around the world of motorsport.
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