Le Mans » 16 June 2009
No fairytale for Gavin at La Sarthe
Oliver Gavin saw his hopes of a fairytale win on the final outing at Le Mans for the factory Corvette Racing C6.R come to an end with a gearbox issue forced the #64 car out of the battle for GT1 honours.
Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fassler were leading the class at the time of the retirement and involved in a heated battle with the sister #63 car – but when the leader ground to halt in the 22nd hour it ensured a clear run to the flag for the #63 to send the GT1 machine out as a winner.
"As always Le Mans is a real story, a real drama," Gavin reflected. The fact that the class was small and that we were only racing our team-mates and the Luc Alphand Corvettes didn't detract from how intense it was and didn't mean that we weren't pushing all the time.
"Right from the very start I felt that things weren't necessarily going to work out our way. We got stung by safety cars twice and lost out against the #63 car each time and, by the time it happened a third time, we really felt we were fated.
"Whether it was as a result of debris from all the accidents around the track or what we don't know, but Olivier, Marcel and I all had punctures.
Pedro Lamy managed to distribute quite a bit of his Peugeot around the track when he had his blow out in the pit lane! Fortunately the sensors which are monitored in the pits meant we were called into the pits before the cars could become wrecked. It might have interrupted our strategy and meant we had some slow in laps, but we were safe.
"Through the night things seemed to turn more our way. Olivier drove fantastically through the night, and so did Marcel. It's harder for him as he doesn't know the car as well as Olivier and I do, and he had a spin early on and took it through the gravel at the second chicane, but it really showed his character as he knuckled down and started driving extremely fast and didn't make another mistake the whole time. He really started to put it all together, and Olivier was at his very best. He was always thinking about what we had to do to get in front of the other car, and it was he that managed to get ahead into the lead on Sunday morning after having a great battle on track with Antonio Garcia.
"Marcel was in the car two hours from the end, and it was looking like I'd get into the car and do one more stint. As he was coming round with four or five laps to go, he radioed in to say he could smell gearbox oil in the car and it was starting to slow down. He lost all drive as he came into the Porsche Curves and managed to coast from there and stopped agonisingly short of the pit lane so the car was stuck and we were out.
"It's the hardest result I've ever had here. We had so many hurdles thrown in front of us throughout the race and we kept coming back and jumping over them. We never gave up, fought back and back and got in the lead and then this freak gearbox problem happened. We had no contact, didn't go off, and had no warning so it's cruel. It just shows that at Le Mans you can never count your chickens; you've got to be praying that things hold together and you get a little bit of luck.
"It wasn't the ending that any of us had hoped for and the guys on our car had done such a great job, we feel cheated. But at Le Mans you have to be running for 24 hours, you've got to be there at the finish, and the #63 ran faultlessly and they all drove smartly. I think it's the first year we've done Le Mans and neither car has been hit by another which is extraordinary considering some of the driving in the middle of the night! You wonder how you get through that unscathed...fortunately Corvette Racing's #63 did. I'll have to just try again another time with our new GT2 car."
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