20 Questions To……Gareth Evans

2005 LMES LMP2 Champion Gareth Evans provides some very amusing answers here. All of the images are from the fifth LMES race in 2005, at Istanbul, a very significant event in one man's racing career. This weekend at Jarama is effectively the first anniversary of that Le Mans (Endurance) Series title, so the timing of this item is rather appropriate.

1. Where were you born (and when)?
Tiverton, Devon. Very early sixties (1959).

2. Where do you now live?
Wimbledon, London.

3. Your favourite Music?
TVR AJP. Goo Goo Dolls, Thin Lizzy (yes, I was born in 1959), JS Bach (like him, I was a choirboy and big promoter of the role of the organ), the high pitched whine of my PA as I disappear out of the door having told her I’m going testing again.

4. Favourite Food?
Fish. Starbucks cheese and marmite pannini. Now I’m training it has to be salad I’m told.

5. Your current road car?
M5. Four doors and a great engine.

6. Which was the first race you ever attended?
Wiscombe Park Hillclimb when I was 7 yrs old. I remember it because my dad locked his keys in the boot of our Triumph Herald. The one with the fold back vinyl ‘sunroof’ so that my sister and I could stand on the back seat with our heads sticking out, pretending to be submarine commanders in our plastic sunglasses and eating flies (my second favourite food). As far as a proper race, it would be the British GP at Brands Hatch. I was a sales rep. in Kent and in those days you could just drive in and watch practice from the bank at Clearways inside the gate. I used to wander for hours around the circuit as this was so much better than working (some things don’t change in life). I still have a picture of Gilles Villeneuve which I took while standing on top of the Armco at Surtees and looking down into the cockpit about six feet away from me. It’s all a bit different now………

7. Which was the first race you competed in?

750MC at Donington Park in Caterham 1400 K series. No one told me about the start procedure however. Having qualified somewhere in midfied, everyone seemed a bit keen to go - on what I thought was the warm up lap. Until the ambulance started passing me into Redgate. Then I caught on - there was no warm up lap! I’ve no idea where I finished, but was relieved just to do so. In any case, the ambulance definitely had more power-to-weight than me and must have jumped the start.

8. Who was your very first sponsor?
My girlfriend of course. Now she’s my wife. It was essential to secure the funding… ….. Not sure about the overall balance of spend by now. I think I might still be ahead though (she won’t be reading this) as I am highly skilled at making extremely vague when it comes to any motor racing budget discussions with her. Not like jewellery - which she can accurately cost to within 1% at 100 paces. Fortunately we have new sponsors now and really great support considering we are an amateur effort.

9. Where was your first race win (and in what car)?
Sidmouth, Devon. 400 yd downhill skateboard unofficial world championship on cliff path (using old ladies for chicanes). Followed by graduation to soap box half-mile down the 9th fairway at the golf course, just managing to miss the flag stick, cross the green, and finish in the bunker before being landed on by fat Oli who had a massive weight advantage downhill - so it was a big win for me. In a race with marshals in orange suits it was 750MC in a 1400 Caterham (not bad for a heavyweight) at Cadwell. Same hills, less pain.

10. Who is your all-time racing hero?
The anti-establishment James Hunt, who never took himself too seriously, tried so hard, and often not with the best car. Great four wheel drifting around Woodcote and an era when it was all so much more spectacular, dangerous, and human.

11. What is your favourite track?
Le Mans. Especially at night, when the atmosphere is unique with headlights everywhere (especially in my rear view when drove the TVR there!). The noise seems to disappear and it all becomes a bit surreal as you blast down the straights between trees, watching for the red lights in front to change in braking. It is quite magical. I can’t wait to go back again. The Porsche curves in a prototype are a fantastic, if a bit unhinging, experience.

12. Who is your favourite team mate?
I’ve enjoyed racing with just about every team mate I have had. Currently Bob Berridge and Peter Owen, who are both great company and we have a lot of laughs, while still trying our hardest whenever we are on the track. We are a good mix together - I make Bob look fast, he makes me look sociable. Peter is just brilliant at whatever he puts his mind to. I think this helps put together what is needed to make an endurance racing team work well and win. To do it our way means devoting significant time together away from the track as well as at it, so we have to get on and it has to be fun as well as very competitive. We want to win and we want to do it smiling.

13. What was your best ever race?
Winning the LMP2 championship at the Istanbul race last year is the obvious one as it was so recent and a great experience for me. Not just because we won the teams and drivers titles, but because I felt I performed well in difficult and tense circumstances. It was probably the best I drove all year and at the right time. Guy Smith was a fantastic coach and it was great to get out of the car knowing I had done a good job and delivered what the team asked me to do, and what I had to do for us to win. All sorts, even the leading Pescarolo, were spinning off, and for over an hour and a half it was one crisis after another in really crap conditions. I stayed (just about) on the track throughout and actually extended our lead - leaving Peter with a straightforward drive into the gravel trap at turn 1…..

Starting at the back of the grid following a total brake failure in qualifying, in a TVR Tuscan race at Spa, is another clear memory. I ended up 8th I think from a field of 30-odd in a 25 minute race. It certainly stands out in my mind as it’s such a fantastic circuit. Not only did I go well and pass a load of others, but it’s memorable for a classic Peter Wheeler (the former TVR company owner) moment. I had lined him up going down into Eau Rouge and passed him at the top of the hill. As I exited onto the straight, he was then way behind and falling back. I was then minding my own business, absolutely flat out, along the Kemmel straight when, from nowhere, he blasted back past me with about 300m still to go to the corner. With the same engine I’m sure. Then again, it was his race series!

14. What is the favourite car you have competed in?
Lola B05/40. A designed-for-racing car is so much more rewarding to drive compared to GT in my opinion. I still need to get to complete grips with the braking potential and that’s my target for 2006, as my mid-corner speeds are fine. That’s going to be down to more experience and a certain (disconnected) mental approach, which can only come with more miles under the belt. It’s so much more physical than I had thought, even with paddle shift. The forces are just so much greater than a GT car. It also has the useful by-product of getting me fit and I’m back in the gym three or four times a week with my sadistic trainer(ess) again now. I’m typing this on a Monday and I still ache from Saturday morning’s press-up-fest. Still, the view does make up for it………..

(Did you keep it up all season Gareth? Ed.)

15. Do you have any racing superstitions?
Not to go anywhere near Bob’s race bag as it contains his lucky underwear.
To always race with Peter at circuits with no gravel traps

16. What is the race you would most like to win?
To beat Hugh Chamberlain at least once in the race to the bar from the circuit. He’s such a driving talent when properly motivated by the thought of lager……

Le Mans is, in principle, the race that I guess so many sportscar racers would say they would ideally want to win. However, I am very realistic and this wasn’t our target (as a bunch of old blokes) and, unlike last year, we weren’t targeting ao win in the Le Mans Series this season. Moving into LMP1 means consolidation on what we learnt last year and seeing how close we can get ourselves to the professional pace. We now have good experience to take forward and have established some key principles which we know work. It’s all about improving and achieving the absolute best we can, with the equipment and ability we have. We are putting our heads above the parapet, and no-one will try harder.

17. What is the best racing advice you have ever received (and from whom)?
"Don’t brake for another 10 metres":……. Guy Smith (right)
"Brake f*****g hard when you get there!"........ Guy Smith
"Drive as fast as you can in a clockwise direction":.. Bob Berridge
“You’ll see this sight picture as you come over the crest at 165mph, the track falls away from you, then opens out, aim for the ‘I’ in Michelin on the hoarding, the first one, if you have turned in too late take the ‘h’, or you can use the second ‘I’ if that feels better, hold it in to the middle of the circuit, down to fifth, then let the car run for 5 or 6 metres, spin up the turbo, dab the brakes with your left foot so there’s no knock-off when you go for it, then go full throttle, keep the sight picture in mind, absorb the view as you turn in, memorise what feels good, it’s all about the sight picture, it’s all about the sight picture, you know, the sight picture. Don’t forget to brake and mind the barriers though": …….. The, at times, incomprehensible Bob Berridge on what to do in the first nano-second as you go into Indianapolis. Don’t ask me, I’ve got absolutely no idea what he’s talking about half the time.

Here are Gareth and Peter Owen, following Guy Smith's style, at Istanbul last November.

Take no notice of certain journalists, go out and drive as hard as you can and compete:……Advice from anyone who knows what it’s like to have to actually do it. It’s interesting how most sports celebrate amateur involvement and achievement but other agenda require this to be apparently unacceptable in motorsport. People have no idea how much hard work and effort goes into our racing and there’s just an assumption we are paying and turning up at the circuit. A long way from the truth in what we have done at Synergy Chamberlain.

18. What is your proudest racing moment?
Crossing the finish line at Le Mans in 2004 in the TVR, with Bob Berridge in the sister car alongside (though he did give it a little squirt as he couldn’t bear the idea of not crossing first, in spite of being several laps up). It was also the only time I have clearly heard crowd noise above a TVR engine, in an enclosed cockpit. I think what has gone on since shows what a fantastic achievement it was to get two of those cars across the line after 24 hourss. The only time I am likely to see big Bob Berridge blub - though I did too. Then I missed the immediate celebrations as I had to give a mandatory urine sample for drug testing. I think it was to do with the ACO trying to understand why on earth I would want to race with Bob. After all the dehydration, it took me three litres of water to then mange what I think was 40cc. Frank Biela was still there drinking and ‘trying’ when I left after about an hour.

19. What is your most embarrassing racing moment?

Crashing a TVR T400R into the Armco on the exit of Clearways on my second lap, in practice at a Britcar race. My co-driver Flux did tell me slicks were fine. They were, but only on the dry line, which I couldn’t get on for M3s everywhere. That’s my excuse in any case. More likely just incompetence. Certainly a learning experience.

20. Which magazines / websites do you use to keep up to date with motorsport?

I look at DSC as it covers specifically what interests me. The reports from the big meetings is a fantastic service and no mean feat with some of the (poor) facilities you have to work with when out and about.

 

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