The departure gate ahead of a day on a plane’s never the best time or place to catch up with a rally driver and Elfyn Evans is testament to that.
Yes, the World Rally Championship is very much looking forward to returning to New Zealand, but, in travel terms, not much has changed in the decade splitting the last Kiwi WRC qualifier and this week. Planes haven’t got any faster and tectonic plate movement hasn’t brought Europe and the land of the long white cloud significantly closer.
Door-to-door, downtown Auckland remains 30-odd hours from Evans’ own garden path.
Offering the consolation that the scenery’s pretty similar brings a thin smile.
“Yeah,” said the Toyota driver, “the weather [and] the climate is pretty similar – but it’s a very long way from home to say it feels like home.
“I haven’t been before, but from what I’ve seen, I know what you mean. The scenery is pretty similar, especially the sheep – that could be scarily similar!”
Long way or not, this weekend offers Evans an anniversary he could really do without. It’s a year since he romped home to an emphatic Rally Finland victory.
“Really,” is the politely uninterested response. “I don’t think it’s any secret we haven’t had the year we were hoping for. We’ve been close, we’ve been knocking on the door, but we haven’t quite been able to seal the deal. From my side, nothing’s changed.”
And nor will it.
“I think you’re right,” he said. “OK, if you hadn’t finished any of the last five rallies, you would probably change your approach a bit. But I go to every rally to do the best job I can – that hasn’t changed.
“The hunger’s growing – it grows every time you don’t stand on the top step of the podium. But not winning isn’t playing on my mind at all. This week I’ll go and give my best, same as always.”
But, for now, stepping off the plane in the City of Sails is a good place to start. A 24-hour cycle in Evans’ life – like that of his colleagues up and down the service park – involves a bike or a pair of trainers and the great outdoors. Sitting down for a day doesn’t come naturally.