Jaguar Racing Blog: Mitch Evans talks balloon rides and winning

by Vince Pettit

It’s been a while since we’ve last caught up and a lot has happened. It’s been busy but we’ve had some great success and continuing to work hard as we get further into the season. Let’s catch up in more detail…

Since my last blog (after rounds one and two in Saudi Arabia) we have had three races – Santiago, Mexico and Marrakesh – and we have had some great achievements. Let me take you through them!

Post-Riyadh

Over Christmas, I spent some time at home in New Zealand with my family, which was lovely. You can’t beat a Christmas at home – the sun was shining and it was brilliant to have all my family around me. Once we got into the New Year, I returned to the UK and got straight in the simulator to hit the ground running ahead of round three of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Santiago. 

After a few weeks in the UK working with the team, we headed out to Santiago a few days before the race to get settled in. Santiago is an amazing city and having raced there three times before, I felt I knew what to expect. Santiago is always a scorcher of a race, with temperatures soaring into the 30s, it can have a massive impact on the Jaguar I-TYPE 4. But the team and I worked hard to prepare for this and I felt well equipped to take on anything that came my way!

Santiago

In Santiago, the car performed impressively and I had an amazing qualifying, putting the car on pole position – a start to a race weekend doesn’t get much better – we had four points before lunchtime! As the lights went green for the race, I led field and we started strong. Frustratingly as the race went on, I suffered from some technical and software issues – something that you simply have to manage as best as possible as a team. Subsequently, I was unable to receive my energy information which made it hard to manage energy and battery temperatures.

Credit: Jaguar Racing

Luckily, we were able to recover the system and fix any glitches pretty quickly but after a few laps without that data, the temperature of the battery was not where we wanted which put the car on the limit. Without the software, you’re effectively blind without vital information, so racing becomes even more challenging than normal.

I ended up having to race at a far more conservative pace to help manage the battery for the rest of the race and both Gunther and de Costa overtook me. When the chequered flag fell I was third, which is still a huge achievement and Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s first podium of season six.

I was a bit frustrated, we didn’t maintain top spot, it’s important to remember all the positives from the race and I felt a huge sense of achievement of how the team dealt with the software issue and managed to maintain third.

Even under such immense pressure, the I-TYPE 4 retained its prowess and I was able to bring some valuable points to the table for the team. Standing on the podium is always incredible and having all the team there cheering you on and celebrating together is an unbeatable feeling. I took away many positives from Santiago and felt confident that the I-TYPE 4 has the ability to win future races.

Mexico City 

Before heading out to Mexico for round four, I spent some time in the sim practising my qualifying hot lap. Completing a competitive hot lap is vital to putting yourself in a good position for the race. Qualifying has been a key focus of mine recently, so it was good to get some time in the sim ahead of Mexico City working specifically on this. 

Like most races, we headed out to Mexico a few days before the race to acclimatise. Mexico City has a really high altitude, so I find getting acclimatised takes a few days. A few days before the race, we did a shoot in La Mexicana to get some photography and video content.

I always enjoy this part of our trips as it gives me some time to see a different element of the city and have a bit of fun with the team and James. We always have a laugh and the photos and videos the team put together for us are really cool. Go check out the stuff we captured @MitchEvans_ and @JaguarRacing.

When Saturday came around, it was time to hit the ground running and get in the zone. I always turn up at the track early to fully immerse myself in race mode. We did the usual racecar checks and took the I-TYYPE 4 out for a spin of the free practice rounds. I was in Group 2 for Qualifying, which just about gave the track time sometime to evolve. I was really pleased with my qualifying performance again and the hard work clearly paid off – another Super Pole session achieved, eventually finishing second on the grid. Hard work does pay off!

Credit: Jaguar Racing

Ahead of the lights going green, I spent some time visualising how my race would go. After the software problems in Santiago, I didn’t want to have a reoccurrence of that. I got in the I-TYPE 4 and my adrenaline was pumping, I must admit! When the lights went green, I knew I had to capitalise on the one-shot nature of Formula E so came blasting out of my starting position. I went in hard and took the lead from Lotterer on the first corner, a move that I had visualised ahead of the race. It worked a treat and I managed to secure first place from the first corner of the first lap.

The rest of the race was something really quite special. I kept my nose clean, managed energy perfectly and pushed on. We were incredibly dominant and despite some yellow flags, I eventually crossed the line four seconds ahead of second place.

Many have called it one of Formula E’s most dominant performance but as a team, it was a great weekend and the outcome of this race is a real credit to how well the team planned and executed our race strategy. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I was top of the drivers’ championship for the first time and Panasonic Jaguar Racing sat second in the teams’ championship.  

After a win, the team is always in high spirits and we were all ready to celebrate. The podium was definitely my highlight – I have been dreaming of that top spot since I had my first taste of winning in Rome during last season. The whole team came to watch and it was a moment for them all to enjoy after all their hard work.

In the days that followed the race the media was very positive. Having the motorsport community speak about your dominant performance is a real honour. It has made me feel confident in my ability and proves hard work does pay off. I just want to give a huge shout out to my team because without them, none of this could be possible. They have been amazing over the last three and a half years and I am so grateful for everything they do for me. 

Looking to Marrakesh

Once we got back to the UK, I put the win to the back of my mind and it was time to return to the sim, finessing techniques and race strategy for Marrakesh. We had a really quick turn around between Mexico City and Marrakesh – roughly 10 days – so there was no time to be wasted. While it is amazing to win and feel elated after Mexico, I want to continue to focus on the season ahead and I want another podium.

Despite only having 10 days to prepare, I had a lot of interview requests from media. I spend so much time chatting to journalists and re-living the race. It was great to share my story.

Landing in Marrakesh, one of my first commitments was doing something I’d never done before – a hot air balloon ride. It was an early start on Thursday morning, heading to the take-off point for 6:15am but it was certainly worth it.

I took off in a basket with Nicki Shields (Formula E Host Broadcast presenter) for CNN Supercharged and we were up there for about 60-minute while having a chat for TV.  I’m not great with heights but the scenery was amazing and the hot air balloon pilot was very experienced so I felt relaxed!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9E5-5BpQAT/

Heading into the race day, we were fully focused to maximise the Jaguar I-TYPE 4’s performance and maintain our positions in the championship standings. Our pace in free practice sessions looked positive with the fastest time in Free Practice 2 but frustratingly during qualifying, I narrowly missed taking the chequered flag. This meant I was unable to complete a qualifying lap and I started at the back of the grid despite having a time quick enough for Super Pole.

This is never an ideal situation, but we had to move our focus on to the race and how to try and get the most out of the race and gain as many points as possible. Starting the race, I had the determination to get through the pack and to send a message to the others – and boy did we do that. I overtook 18 cars – a Formula E record – and ended up sixth place and recording the fastest lap of the race.

After an unfortunate qualifying, the team provided a great strategy in the race to get us back up in the points. 

As we move into the mid-way point of the season, our Jaguar I-TYPE 4 clearly has pace and performance that we will now continue to work on to ensure we get more great results in the races to come.

Catch up soon (hopefully after more great results!)

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