21 November 2009
Q&A: Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing
Oliver Gavin reflects on the 2009 sportscar season
Oliver Gavin enjoyed another busy season in 2009 as he continued his racing programme in the American Le Mans Series and also contested the Spa 24 Hours.
For Gavin, it was the end of an era as the curtain came down on Corvette Racing's GT1 programme, with the team moving to GT2 by the end of the season.
Here, the Briton looks back over the season...
How did it feel to say goodbye to the Corvette GT1 car in the ALMS after so many successful seasons?
It felt quite sad because the car had generated a huge amount of success for the team and me personally, and I got so much enjoyment out of driving it. With my team-mates, I won Le Mans four times in the GT1 car, starting in 2002 and then three great victories with Olivier [Beretta] and Jan [Magnussen] in 2004/05/06. I also won three ALMS championships with Olivier so it played a huge part in my career. The GT1 car spanned a decade of successful competition which is really impressive; I'm pleased to have been part of the history of such an important and special car.
What's your best memory of those GT1 years?
The whole 2006 season! We started with victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a race that Olivier, Jan and I had been trying to win since 2004 but it seemed that luck had always been against us; it was a monkey off our back. That year it all fell into place and we went on to win all the ALMS races leading up to Le Mans and then won in France for the third time in a row after an epic battle with the Prodrive Aston Martins. Having been nose-to-tail for 22 hours, victory was fantastic. On a personal level, I felt it was the best I'd ever driven; I didn't make any mistakes, go off or hit anybody and felt I contributed a lot to that victory.
How confident were you that this year's Corvette GT2 car was going to be competitive?
Well, knowing that the same people at Pratt & Miller who'd made the GT1 car were involved automatically gave us a lot of confidence. They've got a massive pool of knowledge for building and running successful GT cars but, until you go to that first race and are up against everyone else on the same track and in the same set of conditions, you don't really know for sure. We've run somewhere near the front almost everywhere we've been with the GT2 car this year, and had a chance of victory, and that speaks volumes.
Who is your biggest rival in GT and why?
Your team-mates are your biggest rivals first and foremost; with equal equipment and engineering they have exactly the same shot as you. In the ALMS, the Flying Lizard Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister and Pat Long and Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer's Risi Ferrari were extremely quick and always a threat. In both cases this is down to their experience, speed and well-run teams.
It's just such an intensely competitive class in the ALMS, with at least seven or eight cars always being in with a chance. At the last round in Laguna Seca, I came into the pits during one practice session and asked what position I was in and was a bit surprised when they said seventh. But, the quickest time was only three tenths of a second ahead and there was rarely more than half a second separating the top six or seven cars in any session at any race which shows just how competitive it is. That rivalry is only going to increase into 2010 and everyone is really looking forward to it. I can't wait to get back to Sebring in March and commence battle!
What, for you, was the revelation of 2009?
The Goodwood Revival meeting. It was my first time there this year and it was such an amazing, enjoyable event with so much atmosphere and fun, but with serious racing and great competitors. It was a truly remarkable weekend and one I'd love to do it again next year. To race a Mini on my debut there – the first time I'd ever raced a front-wheel-drive car – up against some touring and sports car legends like Derek Bell, Andy Rouse and John Cleland was very special. Nick Swift put out a very good car and did an exceptionally good job himself so the two of us came away with a pretty dominant victory.
What was the biggest disappointment of 2009?
Le Mans. We'd worked so hard to overcome hurdles during the race, such as pace cars, incidents, and just 'stuff' that happened and, after 20 hours got into the lead genuinely on speed and not through luck. Then, for it all to be taken away an hour or so later because of a freak gearbox problem, it leaves you thinking...“why? Why did it happen to us?” I felt extremely sorry for Marcel [Fassler] as I'd experienced something similar in 2007, being stuck out on track with a broken car and having to make that horrible walk back to the pits. You feel so helpless and useless and it was massively deflating.
Is victory in the Spa 24 Hours a personal goal for 2010 and how different is it racing in Europe and the USA?
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