After winning the GP3 title in 2012 and completing a solid maiden season in the GP2 Series in 2013, New Zealand race star Mitch Evans has confirmed that he intends to return to the feeder series for a second year - and that his focus is on nothing less than clinching the championship.
"I'm working hard to be on the GP2 grid for 2014 and going for the title," Evans revealed this week. "I did the same in GP3, so I'm hoping I can repeat that if I get an opportunity next year.
"It was a very up and down season this year," Evans admitted of his rookie year. "It was amazing to compete in the GP2 Series but the results weren't what I was hoping for - but there were a few races I was very proud of.
"The whole Monaco weekend - double podium around there was incredible especially in one weekend," he added when asked to nominate his favourite event of his rookie season in the feeder series. "It's probably the most famous track in the world and the backdrop is stunning!"
Longer term, Evans naturally has an eye on following his mentor Mark Webber into F1, and the 19-year-old from Auckland in New Zealand said that he didn't believe GP2's position as the natural route into Grand Prix racing had been diminished by the likes of Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas both recently by-passing the series and moving straight into an F1 team.
"A few great drivers in the past went from F3 to F1, which is an even bigger step," Evans pointed out. "There's more to it than meets the eye but the traditional progression is obviously from GP2, or another feeder series closer to F1 [than F3 or GP3]."
But before the wheels start turning for 2014, there was some 'fun' to be had in Tasmania before he heads home for a family Christmas on the beach. Evans was speaking to Crash.net
after completing the 2013 Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge multi-discipline adventure race in Tasmania, which saw competitors traverse some 350km of terrain via mountain bike, kayak and trek over the course of five days.
"It was very, very tough but also hugely enjoyable," said Evans of his first participation in the unique event. "I've always wanted to do it, and I was given the opportunity to do it this year, which was a huge surprise to be honest.
"It's very similar to my normal training but just a bit extra volume to adapt to the long days out," he said, with kayaking the only completely new discipline that he needed to add to his usual fitness program in order to prepare for the event.
"Either mountain biking or running is my best and my least favourite was probably the kayaking, just feels like you put some much effort in for such little return with speed," he laughed, sounding every inch a motor racing driver who loves all things fast.
Evans added that he was sad to see Webber retire from Grand Prix racing at the end of the 2013 season, but that he fully supported the Australian's decision to end his time in F1 at the moment of his choosing.
"He's had an amazing innings but just like anyone is life there's time to start a new chapter in your life, and now is that time for him," said Evans, who agreed that Webber's success in the sport had been a massive influence on and inspiration for his own career.
"Mark has been massively supportive and helpful in all areas," said Evans. "He is looked up to by most Aussie and Kiwi youngsters, but not only for his skills on track but also his professionalism out of the car.
"There are always young drivers trying to follow the footsteps of Mark," he added. "But it's so tough for us to make opportunities happen and many get left behind."
Webber himself is moving on from F1 to join Porsche's new LMP1 sportscar programme in 2014. As for the sporting challenge that bears his name, that's taking a hiatus next year but Webber and his fellow event organisers hope that it will be back even bigger and better in 2015.
"We have now reached the end of a three-year partnership agreement with Tourism Tasmania, and as I embark on the next stage of my on-track career it was a natural opportunity for it to take a break in 2014," explained Webber after this weekend's event.
"Next year will also see an important next step in the development of the Challenge," he added. "We are already working on plans for a new concept that will extend its reach to a wider audience."
Latest news and developments about the Mark Webber Challenge - which has been seen by an estimated 400 million TV viewers across 120 countries - can be found at www.markwebberchallenge.com
. The event raises funds for the Whitelion youth charity and the Save the Tassie Devil Appeal.Read the full Q&A with Mitch Evans