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The racing bond helping two Kiwis dominate Formula E

The recent form of Jaguar's Formula E powertrain thrust Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans into a 1-2 at the Monaco E-Prix. But the pair are no strangers to on-track rivalry, having competed against one another since their karting days and even been team-mates in the Toyota Racing Series. The Kiwi pair sat down with Autosport to reflect on some of their career milestones

Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans have taken the Formula E world by storm this season, riding the crest of a wave that means the two New Zealanders have won the last four races between themselves.

Cassidy’s success in Monaco last weekend has put him to the top of the drivers’ championship, with Evans’ runner-up spot placing him just 27 points back as both are simultaneously hitting peak form in the battle for this year’s title.

While the Envision Racing and Jaguar drivers are competitive rivals on the track, the two Kiwis are firm friends off it having grown up together since their karting days.

Ahead of the last round in Monaco, both discussed that friendship, the ups and downs of their careers and what it means to represent a country of just five million people.

Cassidy and Evans have been rivals since their karting days in New Zealand

Cassidy and Evans have been rivals since their karting days in New Zealand

Nick Cassidy: “We’ve been best mates since we were six years old, and we’ve always been up against each other.

“I was that kid who dreamed of it [a racing career] but my parents probably didn’t think it was really possible and took it year-by-year. You were in a similar boat but obviously probably a little bit more of a motorsport background, right?”

Mitch Evans: “Yeah, my dad’s heavily into motorsport. So it wasn’t forced upon me, but he really wanted me to do it and then obviously it depends on how I go.

“I think Nick and I were both lucky, we started winning quite young and then we got the drug. Probably the most powerful drug is when you win, right, and we were just hooked from there.”

Evans claimed back-to-back Toyota Racing Series titles in 2010 and 2011, the latter season as team-mates with Cassidy at Giles Motorsport, before the future Envision driver also went on to secure two TRS titles in 2012 and 2013.

Cassidy leads the Toyota Racing Series field at Teretonga in 2011, tracked by Evans - the reigning champion and his team-mate at Giles Motorsport

Cassidy leads the Toyota Racing Series field at Teretonga in 2011, tracked by Evans - the reigning champion and his team-mate at Giles Motorsport

Photo by: Geoff Ridder

NC: “I think that was the only pole I got [in 2011 at Teretonga]. To be honest Mitch dominated that year, he was really strong. You got me in the race, but it was good for me I think that year being team-mates with you because I was probably a year behind in TRS experience, but just being able to learn off you was actually really important for that.”

How was it coming back as the reigning champion Mitch, was there added pressure?

ME: “I think it gives you a lot of confidence because once you’ve had a good season, once you come with a big target on your back it means you’ve done a good job let’s say.

“I was in the same team, it was same car year-to-year so not really pressure. I felt really strong in the car, so more sort of excitement and just wanting to try and build on my success from the previous year.”

You’re friends off the track, but did it ever get heated on it?

NC: “Probably only in karts I would say.”

ME: “In karts we raced against each other every weekend almost, so we had a few moments where we took each other out or there was contact or disagreements, let’s say.”

NC: “I reckon our biggest fights were probably on the PlayStation!”

Evans and Cassidy both benefitted from local backers who funded their early careers, but each faced pressure to retain the support

Evans and Cassidy both benefitted from local backers who funded their early careers, but each faced pressure to retain the support

Photo by: Geoff Ridder

NC: “What’s really cool I think for Mitch and I is on our jacket how many partners we had at a young age. We’re racing cars in New Zealand, and we had so much sponsorship and support from local companies which I think is honestly one of the really cool things about New Zealand motorsport. I’m really lucky to be here today because of that.”

ME: “My father was instrumental in trying to find the sponsors for me and obviously all the logos on our jackets are literally paying chunks for the budget and making it possible for us.

“Some guys from New Zealand didn’t get that opportunity and we feel quite grateful that we were able to pick up sponsorship. It was a year-by-year thing, we had to get the results that year to get sponsorship for the next year.”

NC: “When you mention pressure, that’s actually more where the pressure comes from. It was about performing well to keep the support going.”

Evans won the GP3 title at Monza in 2012 to keep his single-seater dream alive

Evans won the GP3 title at Monza in 2012 to keep his single-seater dream alive

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Evans joined Arden in GP3 for the 2011 season, winning in Spain and finishing the season ninth in the standings. The following year he claimed the title by just two points in a nail-biting finish in Italy at Monza.

ME: “It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster last race weekend. I had a relatively comfortable lead [in the championship] but it all turned badly. Antonio Felix da Costa was ahead, who I was going up against, and also Daniel Abt – so he almost beat me in the championship, there was a couple of points in it.

“I was stressed out. The whole weekend just went really badly. At one moment I’d lost the championship, then I just won it by one position. Daniel had to win the race and I had to not finish. I had a puncture in the race, had to box, I had no points and he was leading the race. Then he got overtaken thankfully for me. This was a pretty amazing moment for us. It was my last championship as well so it’s a long time ago.

“I feel like I could have won [the title a year earlier] but I just had a bit of bad luck towards the end of the season. To convert it the next year was really important. It was a big move across [to Europe] and it was tough. I remember that first year I was super homesick.”

Honours for Evans and Cassidy at the 2015 BRDC Awards underlined their growing stature on the global stage of motorsport

Honours for Evans and Cassidy at the 2015 BRDC Awards underlined their growing stature on the global stage of motorsport

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Both Evans and Cassidy received awards from the British Racing Drivers’ Club in 2015. Evans the Woolf Barnato Trophy for the highest-placed British team in the Le Mans 24 Hours, having finished second in class with Jota Sport. Cassidy claimed the Bruce McLaren Trophy – awarded to the Commonwealth driver who has established the most meritorious performances in international motor racing – for his title success in Japanese F3.

NC: “To be just part of the BRDC is pretty special and I think that’s a really amazing thing how they include the Commonwealth drivers. It’s pretty prestigious, so that was really cool to be recognised.

“It was unexpected as well because I’d just had my first season in Japan racing Formula 3 and didn’t expect that anyone was watching. That’s what really kicked off my career in Japan, that was super important to get that title.”

After his GP3 success, Evans graduated to GP2 in 2013 with Arden before two years with Russian Time followed, which included two wins and fourth and fifth in the overall standings. For 2016, the Kiwi moved to Campos and his sole win during a difficult season came at the Red Bull Ring.

ME: “This was a really tough year for me to be honest. I was very fortunate I got an opportunity with the Gelael family from Indonesia, they gave me a chance when I was kind of off the back of three tough years in GP2.

Evans spent four years in GP2, but the door to F1 never opened. Here he is pictured en-route to his final win at the Red Bull Ring in 2016 with Campos

Evans spent four years in GP2, but the door to F1 never opened. Here he is pictured en-route to his final win at the Red Bull Ring in 2016 with Campos

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“This was the year I signed with [Jaguar in] Formula E, I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life and my career, and I didn’t really know what was going to be next.

“This race I actually won, and it was a 1-2 with Sean [Gelael] which was incredible, but it was kind of the only good result throughout the whole year.

“Off the back of that there was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel signing with Jaguar and obviously that’s really set me up for my professional career, so mixed emotions seeing this to be honest. It’s a good result, but it was a tough period for me mentally.”

How hard was it being so close to F1 but ultimately falling short?

ME: “Extremely tough. Those are the darkest days of my career to be honest because I’d done everything right up until that point, especially in 2013. I’d just come off the back of winning GP3, I obviously needed a good year in 2013 but we just struggled as a team to be honest – it’s as simple as that.

“I think my hopes kind of diminished after that first year in GP2. Those days still haunt me to be honest. I was in a bit of a dark place off the back of that because I felt like I, not deserved, but did all the right things to get to F1 and unfortunately the last part just didn’t quite fall my way.”

Cassidy's career in Japan gained momentum and he won his first Super GT race at Okayama in 2017 en route to that year's title

Cassidy's career in Japan gained momentum and he won his first Super GT race at Okayama in 2017 en route to that year's title

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Cassidy’s career in Japan continued after his F3 success and he raced in Super GT from the 2016 season with Lexus. The title came alongside Ryo Hirakawa in 2017 followed by the runner-up spot in the next two seasons.

NC: “I think the performance of the cars and the technology was next level and still is to this day. From a mechanical set-up point of view and tyre development point of view, it’s the world’s reference. A lot of that knowledge and experience [I learnt] there helps me today and this was just a really good year for me. For Super GT anyway that was the start of a pretty good run.”

Coinciding with his championship success in Super GT, Cassidy also began racing in Super Formula with Kondo Racing, before moving to Team TOM’s and sealing the title in 2019.

NC: “The 2017 season was a tough one in Super Formula, I kind of went in there winning in Super GT but in Super Formula I was with, how do you say it in a nice way, Toyota’s worst team right?

“And it was just the position I was in, but Toyota were supporting me quite a lot and over the course of those two years I really learnt a lot about what makes I guess the performance of a car. It was actually quite an important year in my career from a development point of view.

Cassidy clinched the Super Formula title at Suzuka 2019, which proved a ticket back to racing in Europe in Formula E, DTM and WEC

Cassidy clinched the Super Formula title at Suzuka 2019, which proved a ticket back to racing in Europe in Formula E, DTM and WEC

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“In 2018, I just missed out on the championship by like half a second at the final race, it was really close and then I changed team for 2019 and we got the championship done. We had an engine failure in 2020, leading the championship and it was the last lap, so it almost felt like it should have been three in a row it was that close.”

Cassidy joined Evans in Formula E from the 2020-21 season with Envision Racing, while the latter has remained with Jaguar during his entire FE career. Both use the Jaguar powertrain, meaning a deeper collaboration than previous seasons.

The dawn of the new Gen3 era provided something of a reset in the competitive order, and the Jaguar packaged has performed strongly. Wins arrived in Sao Paulo and Berlin for Evans, with Cassidy winning the second Berlin race and at Monaco last weekend.

ME: “This year it’s changed a bit because we’re working closer together let’s say because of the Jaguar powertrain relationship. But this is one of the biggest championships in the world and to have two Kiwis, and obviously with our past as well, is super special. To have some of the recent results is really crazy, and it’s hard to put into words.”

Does racing against each other in Formula E remind you of your karting days?

NC: “I just think we’re more mature about it now and we have a lot of respect for each other.”

ME: “If one of us loses out or we can accept it more now because we know the other guys done a good job or a better job and it’s okay to accept that.

“Whereas when I think when we were younger you make more excuses, you want to be that guy maybe a bit more. Now it’s different.”

Cassidy and Evans have now won the last four Formula E races between them and finished 1-2 in Monaco last weekend

Cassidy and Evans have now won the last four Formula E races between them and finished 1-2 in Monaco last weekend

Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images

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