Owen Evans – A Race History 1973-2008
Owen Evans of Auckland, NZ, was born in Auckland, NZ in 1958. He started racing in 1973 in Ford Anglia and Escort cars. He raced with his Dad in the annual Benson & Hedges Endurance races from 1973.
Owen also started Rally driving in 1973 and at one stage in the 1970s he owned the ex-Rod Millen championship winning Mazda, a car he sold to ‘Possum’ Bourne, who subsequently wrote it off in a crash. The fuel crisis of the 1970s curtailed Owen’s rallying so he took to circuit racing with some considerable success in the 1980s in his own Alfa Romeo Alfasud.
By 1991 Owen had a Porsche 911 2.7 and he also began driving Bill Farmer’s Porsche 911 2.7. The duo raced with success in the Nissan-Mobil series in 1991 and 1992.
Owen also drove Bill’s Porsche GT2 Le Mans Turbo in one round of the Global GT series. In 1996 Owen helped to qualify the two Farmer and Bagnall GT2 LM cars for the 1996 Le Mans 24 hour race, but an accident just prior to Le Mans prevented Owen from driving in the race.
In the 1990s Owen formed an enduring partnership with Bill Fulford that in turn led to the highly successful ‘Lighting Direct’ Racing Team. Owen stayed with Bill until he retired from racing “around 2008”. The Team cars, with their distinctive teal green ‘Lighting Direct’ livery, became synonymous with Porsche reliability, consistency and success on race tracks throughout New Zealand.
Owen is renowned as a driver of considerable skill. He drove Porsche cars with great success in a wide variety of sprint and endurance races. He became the holder of the NZ Land Speed Records from 1996 and while the ‘Flying one-quarter kilometre’ time was taken from him in 2012, he still holds ‘The Castrol Trophy’ for the NZ Land Speed Record over both the flying mile and flying kilometre.
An outline of some of Owen’s Porsche racing is as follows:-
Wellington Nissan Mobil 500 – 1st December 1991 – Drivers Owen Evans/Bill Farmer. Car – Bill Farmer’s Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RS 3200cc – Qualified 11th of 42 cars to start. Finished in 9th place overall and 2nd in Class B to the Nigel Arkell/Dave Slater Porsche 911. Completed 130 of the 144 laps recorded by the winner.
Pukekohe Nissan Mobil 500 – 8th December 1991 – Drivers Owen Evans/Bill Farmer. ‘Evans European’ sponsored #7 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RS 3200cc – Qualified 12th of 32 entries. Did Not Finish (DNF).
Wellington Nissan Mobil 500 – 6th December 1992 – Drivers Owen Evans/Bill Farmer. ‘Evans European’ sponsored #7 Porsche 911 – Qualified 7th of 38 starters. Finished in 3rd place overall and 1st in class on 136 of 146 laps
Pukekohe Nissan Mobil 500 – 13th December 1992 – Drivers Owen Evans/Bill Farmer. ‘Evans European’ sponsored #7 Porsche 911 2994cc – finished in 5th place overall and 1st in class on 119 of 130 laps
Overall results from the two-race series saw Evans/Farmer take equal-third position.
Wellington Nissan Mobil 500 – 5th December 1993- Drivers Owen Evans/Bruno Eichmann (Switzerland) #11 ‘Lighting Direct/Evans European’ sponsored 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3600cc – Qualified 3rd of 27 cars. Finished in 1st place on 134 laps with a race time of 4 hours 0 mins 55.54 secs. 2nd fastest lap 1min 37.89 seconds
Pukekohe Nissan Mobil 300 (107 Laps) – 12th December 1993 – Drivers Owen Evans/Bruno Eichmann (Switzerland). #11 ‘Lighting Direct/Evans European’ sponsored #11 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3600 – 2nd place overall and 1st in class. Completed 103 of 107 laps in race time of 1 hour 56.26 minutes.
Owen also drove a Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 in the Bridgestone-Porsche Championship support races.
Pukekohe – Porsche 911 RSR – 1st place Dan Peoples Memorial Trophy – Sports & GT class
Wellington – Owen teamed with Ralf Kelleners in a Porsche RSR 3.8 and finished 1st in the 1-hour Sports & GT race. They also finished first in the 1-hour Sports & GT race at Pukekohe.
Germany – Porsche 911 Carrera – Carrera Cup – One race: qualified 11th of 36 car and finished a very credible 5th place. Owen brought the car back to New Zealand.
Owen continued to trace in the NZ GT Championships and the Bridgestone Porsche Championship series.
Baypark 15 April 1995 – See below the Lighting Direct team cars at the final corner of the final Saloon & GT race held at Baypark before the track closed; this was a Handicap race titled the “Baypark Allcomers Classic Car Flying Farewell”.
Owen drove one race in Bill Farmer’s Porsche GT2 LM – this was on 27th August 1995 in Round 9 of the ‘Global GT Championship’, held at Suzaka, Japan in the ‘Pokka 1000km’. Teamed with Bill and Robert Nearn, they qualified in a lowly 50th place with significant problems in the car. After an ‘all-nighter’ to fix the car, they just made it to the race and finished a very good 13th place, and 3rd in class.
In his #11 Lighting Direct Porsche, Owen raced against Bill in his bright red #14 GT2 LM at Manfeild in November 1995. In what has been described as probably amongst the very best sprint races ever held at Manfeild, the two cars diced and swapped the lade constantly throughout the two 8-lap races – with Bill’s car narrowly taking the honours.
Owen also drove in the inaugural Targa Bambina in 1995 and won in his Porsche RSR.
In support of the Australian Touring Car races held at Wellington, Owen competed in the Sports & GT races in what was the final year that races were held on the Capital’s street and harbour side race circuit. Owen recalls Jim Richards driving the Porsche Twin-Turbo 4 WD and Richard Giltrap in his Porsche Carrera Cup RS.
Le Mans ’96 – The ‘1996 Le Kiwi Comeback’ team of two Porsche 911 GT2 Le Mans cars needed to ‘pre-qualify’ in the GT2 class for the 1996 Le Mans 24 Hour Race. On 28th April 1996, at Le Mans, Owen, together with Andy Pilgrim (UK) and Stephane Ortelli (France) tested the #83 white/red coloured ‘New Hardware Clothing/Klondike International/Parr Racing’ Porsche before Owen set a time fast enough to pre-qualify the car. Owen was to share the drive of the #83 car in the 24 hour race with Andrew Bagnall (NZ) and Andy Pilgrim. Ortelli also pre-qualified the second ‘Le Kiwi Comeback’ car, the #71 red/white Porsche to be driven by Bill Farmer/Greg Murphy/Stephane Ortelli for the 1996 Le Mans 24 hour race.
However, due to the severe injuries that Owen sustained in a crash after setting the NZ Land Speed Record on 2nd June ‘96 (see below), he was not able to race at Le Mans on 15/16 June ‘96. In his absence and to acknowledge Owen’s significant contribution, Owen’s name was a carried on the side of the #83 car for the 24 hour race.
NZ Land Speed Record – 2 June 1996 – While driving his Lighting Direct liveried Porsche 911 GT Le Mans Turbo, Owen was awarded ‘Motorsport NZ Castrol Trophy’ for setting the NZ Land Speed record at a speed of 216.385 mph (348.23km/h) on Goudie Road, Reporoa. Owen set the record but then crashed, badly, on a subsequent run.
Pukekohe – Porsche 911 Le Mans Turbo. After a long recuperation Owen returned to racing on 17th January 1998 at Pukekohe.
Owen raced his Porsche 911 LM Turbo in the ‘Sports & GT’ series
Owen raced his Porsche 911 RSR in the ‘NZ Super GT’ Championship
Porsche 911 LM Turbo – 4th place NZ Super GT Championship – 8 races for 2 wins, 6 podiums and 4 fastest laps.
Porsche 911 LM Turbo – raced in the Bridgestone Porsche Club NZ Championship.
Porsche 911 LM Turbo – CRC NZ Super GT Championship – 7 races, 1 win, 4 podiums, 1 pole, 1 fastest lap.
Porsche 911 LM Turbo – 7th place NZ Super GT Championship. 9 races, 3 wins, 5 podiums, 1 pole, 5 fastest laps.
Owen doesn’t recall when he actually retired from racing – it was “possibly when my son Mitch was about 14, so that would be about 2008”! Owen still owns his legendary Porsche 911 Le Mans Turbo; after the 911 car crashed after capturing the NZ Land Speed Record in June 1996, a new body was purchased and the 911 LM Turbo was rebuilt.