They say the family that plays together stays together and it is certainly true for Australian rally star Simon Evans and his children.
By Liz Swanton
When both parents are the best at what they do, their offspring are likely to either follow in their footsteps … or not.
For Jackson and Eden Evans, now aged 27 and 24 years respectively, motorsport was part of life as father Simon and mother Sue conquered the country, winning four Australian Rally Championship crowns.
Now busy building their own careers, they have also joined their father to create a three-car Polaris side-by-side team, backed by Australian owned tools and equipment company, Kincrome. Without her knowing it, Eden was a major part of the deal.
“Last year I was talking to Kincrome about what we were doing and I said, ‘My daughter is going to race with us so we will be a three-car family team’, but Eden didn’t know because I hadn’t talked to her about it,” laughs Simon. Kincrome said yes and Simon left the meeting, ringing his daughter frantically.
When she didn’t answer after repeated attempts, he admits to getting very nervous. Finally, they connected. “I said, ‘Guess what, you’re driving this year. All you have to do is turn up. Please. I’ve sold you as part of the team.’
Previously she’d always said if an opportunity came up to just take it, so I was pretty sure what her answer would be.”
Announcing the deal, then Kincrome CEO, Nick Pritchard, said the three year partnership with Simon Evans Motorsport was the company’s first major sponsorship in racing.
“Simon Evans Motorsport obviously has a great pedigree in Australian motorsport and in rallying in particular,” says Pritchard. “The partnership with Simon, Jackson and Eden is a natural extension of our series sponsorship and I think provides some terrific opportunities for our brand, customers and staff.
“Just like Kincrome, Simon Evans Motorsport is a generational operation, and we really relate to those family values and the loyalty that goes with them.”
With the power of a major sponsor behind them, Simon Evans Motorsport and its three drivers set to work, but only three rounds of last year’s championship were run before COVID intervened and the title was called.
Eden was leading the points tally in her category. It’s the only bragging the family does about last year, because the Evans trio now has their eyes firmly on the prize for 2022, hoping for a full round of events and a chance to put themselves in contention for round wins and titles.
Team leader Simon Evans is rightly regarded as one of Australia’s all-time great rally drivers. In 1999, he and then-wife Sue teamed up as driver and co-driver (navigator), tackling both the national series and rounds of the Asia-Pacific rally championship. They won their first ARC crown in 2006, then again in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
In 2016, Simon was taking another tilt at the ARC and helping his brother Tom who had entered what was then the Polaris RZR Australian Championship (later the SXS series) when another competitor offered him the chance of a drive. It was too good to refuse and after tuning the vehicle to his liking, Simon put it on the podium at his first outing.
“I really enjoyed the racing and the style of racing we were doing at the time which was on motocross tracks with big jumps, which really suited my personality.
“Then it just happened that rallying was getting expensive and there wasn’t much manufacturer support, and I didn’t really know if I wanted to commit to something like that again, at the levels we were operating in the past. The Polaris thing looked so good and ticked all the boxes, so I just went with it.”
For a few years, Simon raced as a ‘factory driver’ for Polaris. Then the company asked him to run the team. He took over in 2018 and won the title the same year.
“We showed them what we could do and then they had a big pull-back and cut budgets and I thought that was it, to be honest. But I said I would like to keep racing and we struck a deal. I built a new car and Jackson started running with me, as a two-car team, in 2019.
We had a brilliant year, finishing one and three, with Jackson winning the championship.
“Everyone was very excited because Jackson was young, and it was his first year in the championship. So Polaris decided to get behind us a bit more, but then COVID hit. We had all these new cars and new plans and we pretty much just sat at home and didn’t race.”
Fast forward to 2022 and Kincrome now sponsors Simon Evans Motorsport as well as the entire SXS Motorsport Australia Championship series which the team is competing in. The side-by-side series has also become a category of the Motorsport Australia BF Goodrich Off Road Championship and the combination means huge fields (around 100 vehicles with half of them in the SXS category) and tight competition.
Simon admits it is hard work running his ‘day job’, Enhanced Concrete Pumping, and the team—and racing in his ‘spare’ time—but 24/7 is the only way he knows how to operate. Even with those pressures, he is still fiercely competitive.
“I love to run at the front, so I want to fight for wins and the championship. Clearly my son is very fast and Eden too, so I want to create the memories and have fun with them.
“If you go racing you don’t do it half-arsed. Well, I don’t. I’ll fight all the way to the end. I like to think I have a few race brains about me so I can still hold my own, and that’s good. I’ve still got toys and I’m still racing, and I will be racing until I die. That’s the plan.”