Australia's cycling champ swaps two wheels for four at Sandown Raceway.
World number one ranked cyclist Cadel Evans has returned to Australia and headed straight to the track. But this time it's without the bicycle, stopwatch or lycra as Cadel has strapped himself into a Lotus sports car.
Ranked number one on the world ProTour, Tour de France 2007 runner-up, Herald Sports Performer of the Year and one of five finalists for 2007 Cyclist of the Year (announced Dec 14), Evans has had an outstanding competitive year.
Though he spends nine months of the year in Europe training and competing on the world's toughest cycling events, Evans returns home for three months every year to relax with some track time - with a different kind of light weight high performance vehicle. Lotus Cars Australia supplied the car and venue for Cadel, an Exige S at Sandown Raceway, Victoria.
"I like to unwind and get away from bikes by driving on a track as much as possible," says Evans of his four-wheel hobby. "I've always been a car guy and I'll jump at any chance I can get to go on the track. I've driven at Sandown once before so at least I know where it goes."
"Cars are my passion outside of cycling; I like the classics," enthused the 30-year-old, "but I'm a big Lotus fan; I have an Elise R back in Switzerland. I read all the mags and I know a bit about Lotus design and the company. I just like the purity of the Elise."
The Lotus Elise R runs a 1.8-litre four-cylinder producing 141kW in a chassis weighing just 860kg. Lotus Cars Australia Sales & Marketing Manager Jonathan Stretton stated: "Given the close relationship between man and machine on his bike, we're sure Cadel's quite at home in the similarly pure and minimalist Elise. And unlike his bike, at least we know if it starts to rain while he's on tour in the Lotus, he has a roof, radio and the comforts of air-conditioning and electric windows to get himself home safe and dry."
In the lead-up to the Sandown GT Classic 500km race held last weekend, Evans temporarily traded his Ridley road racing bike for a 163kW supercharged Exige S for some hot laps around the high-speed circuit. It wasn't all easy though, according to Evans: "It might sound strange for an Aussie, but the biggest problem I have is getting used to shifting gears with my left hand. My Aussie cars have almost always been autos, so I often find myself hitting my hand on the door trim when I go to change gear."
Though cycling criterium are regularly held around Sandown Raceway, Evans has only ever driven a car around the circuit, and was given 30 minutes of the 3.2km historic track to himself.
There's clearly competitive spirit in Cadel that runs beyond two wheels. Evans was quick into the corners, and he had the Exige S well into fifth gear topping 210km/h down Sandown's front straight.
"My biggest problem today was turning in to the corners too early. I used to do that when I was racing mountain bikes because it would slide a bit on the dirt. But once I learnt to apex later I was much quicker. But I just wanted to learn and have a bit of fun so I was happy to pick up a few tips and turn in around 20 laps."
So would he consider a switch to car racing one day? "I don't think my insurance guy would like it too much at the moment, but I'd love to do some tarmac rallies some day. I've driven a lot of the roads used in Targa Tasmania, and I'd love to race on them and drive them at speed.
"I just like to get into my Elise in Switzerland and go for a drive in the mountains. Away from bikes, for now, that's what I really enjoy."
Leave a comment