Introducing: Erik Evans

Introducing: Erik Evans

Once on the Road to Indy, now on the road to sportscar success. American driver Evans made the switch early to GT racing, and hasn’t looked back.

A sensational first full season in the British GT Championship in 2023 brought him and the Academy Motorsport team the overall GT4 title in what was the final campaign for the original Ford Mustang GT4. Now the programme has moved on, with Academy and Evans stepping into the GT4 European Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club while also defending their British GT4 title in a twin programme. And to cap it all, the team is leading European development of the new 2024 Ford Mustang GT4.

Sharing the #61 car with Canadian Marco Signoretti – one of the development drivers for Multimatic Motorsports, which produces the Mustang GT4 – Evans has already marked himself out as one to watch.

Erik, welcome to the GT4 European Series. It’s been quite a journey for you?
“Yeah, I’m the first generation of racer from my family so we’ve come a long way! I started out at an indoor karting camp at home in Atlanta, Georgia, and by the end of the first week I was faster than the instructors… humble brag! They convinced my dad to buy me a proper kart and I started taking some coaching with a local instructor called Xander Clements, who became my coach. I was about 14 at the time and won my first race, setting a new lap record, and my dad will happily tell you that was the single most expensive day of his life…”

Did you compete in karts outside the US?
“No, I only did karting in America. I competed in the US Pro Kart Series and finished third in KA100 Junior Championship in 2018 and then started to have all sorts of bad luck so figured it was time to move on. In 2019 I started testing Formula 4 with Velocity Racing Development and in 2020 I did my first car racing season in F4, finishing sixth in the championship with three podiums and one win, even though I missed five races! I then switched over to the Road to Indy in the USF2000 Championship and it just didn’t go very well… but we learned a load from it. I took a year off in 2022 to see what I wanted to do next.”

What made you switch away from single-seaters?
“About September of 2021 I did most of the USF2000 season and finished out the year with the final few rounds of US F4, including the support races to the F1 weekend at Circuit of the Americas, which was really cool. But it was about then you see the high levels and see how brutal and expensive open-wheel racing is. We knew we had to reassess to find a more viable option.”

And that brought you to GT racing?
“Yeah. I visited British GT because one of my engineers in America recommended it to me, so I did a deal to join Academy for the final round of the 2022 championship at Donington Park, and I loved it. That set us up to do the deal for the full British GT season in 2023.”

What a season that was for you…
“It was incredible! GT racing was a huge change for me, but to be honest I got used to it pretty quickly. With Academy I have a great team around me with [team boss and racer] Matt Nicoll-Jones and Matt Cowley [the other half of last year’s British GT-winning team with Evans]. It was all about development really, learning how to use the tyres best, how the style of racing was in the UK, and by the middle of the season we were fighting for race wins. Then we went into the final two races, won them both, and won the championship! We never even thought about winning the title, but it all just started clicking together late on and came our way. I’ll never get over that high of being champion in my first full year in GT4.”

Now you’re fully into European competition, twinning your GT4 European Series campaign with another year of British GT
“It made sense to do that to get maximum seat time in the new Mustang. When it comes to GT4 racing, there’s nowhere bigger than the GT4 European Series. I want to step up to GT3 next year, so this season is a great chance to get into a super-tight championship, learn the tracks and prepare to try and move up next year.”

Do you find the style of racing different in Europe to the US?
“It’s a lot more aggressively competitive… and by that I mean in America you might have your top five guys in a championship, but here you have a top 30 all fighting so hard to stay on top. It’s so competitive and everybody is so close. It adds that extra layer of having to be perfect and execute each session to the best of your ability, otherwise you’re nowhere.”

How’s it going with the new Mustang?
“It’s been a bit of a learning curve, perhaps steeper than we first thought after the success we had with the old car, but we’re making huge progress with the new Mustang GT4. The new car is a lot stiffer, so it’s getting used to more precise ‘fingertip’ driving and we need to adapt our lines and techniques to suit that. As a result the car feels very different to the old one, but I’m loving it and there’s no question it’s fast. We get great support from Ford Performance staff and we’re getting quicker and quicker, and the Academy team’s doing a great job running the cars. I believe by the end of the season we’ll be up there pushing for race wins.”