Oliver Gavin's ALMS career began in 2000 Oliver Gavin's ALMS career began in 2000 ALMS

Corvette Racing stalwart Oliver Gavin hits 100 race milestine at VIR

Written by  on Thursday, 13 September 2012 10:20

The “Summer of 100 Starts” ends this weekend in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón with Oliver Gavin. The popular British star is a mainstay at Corvette Racing where he has spent the last decade. It’s been a fantastic marriage with three ALMS driver championships, 37 victories (fourth all-time) and 20 pole positions (tied for second all-time). We asked Gavin to take us down memory lane back to his first ALMS start, his joining Corvette and what his future may hold…

Where it all began

“It was Petit Le Mans in 2000 with Jon Field. We had been doing some races together during that summer and having a lot of fun with the Lola B2K/10. It was pretty competitive at that time in the Series. We weren’t on the same level as Audi or any of those guys. But for a privateer, the car was quite fast and quite good. Jon can really drive and was very quick. I think in some ways, the car wasn’t quite fast enough to keep his attention all the time! He would be very fast for five or six laps, then he’d make a mistake or something would happen and drop back. Then his race would unravel a bit. I had a great and amazing time with Jon. He gave me a tremendous opportunity and an introduction in the ALMS.”

Contacting a legend

“That Petit Le Mans was quite eventful as it was the race where I had a bit of an incident with Paul Newman. We were coming down the Esses and got into a complete misunderstanding as we came through. I didn’t know it was him in the car at the time, although I knew he was driving for Dick Barbour. Paul was trying to wave me by on the right-hand side as we approached the braking zone for Turn 5 at Road Atlanta. I thought I was by him and then we touched. I ended up spinning into the gravel at Turn 5 and Paul went into the wall very hard on the left side in the Porsche. I’m sitting in the gravel watching everyone go by and thinking that I still hadn’t seen anyone get out of the Porsche; I thought it looked like the Porsche Newman was driving. Slowly but surely the door comes open and out steps Paul. He had taken his helmet off, had done his hair… he looked immaculate! But he was hobbling. He went to shut the door and the door fell off the car. He went to get over the barrier but fell over and collapsed; I didn’t see him stand up and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no… I’ve crashed with the most famous guy in the race. Is this what I’ll be remembered for? Coming to ALMS and crashing with Paul Newman?’
“So after I got out of the gravel I had to explain myself to both Jon and Dick Barbour. Jon can be quite forceful with his point and he doesn’t suffer fools. He wants to know what happened and doesn’t like people crashing his race car. We came to an understanding and it was fine in the end. Then I had to go explain to Dick Barbour what happened, and he was more furious than Jon. And Dave Price was there too. He was telling me that I was never going to get out of Road Atlanta alive. That I was doomed! He was pulling my leg of course but that was the Dave Price way. I only saw Paul a couple times after that and I didn’t want in particular to bring it up!”

A long-term opportunity

“I really didn’t think (his career at Corvette Racing) would be this long. To stay with a team for the length of time I have – 11 years – is extraordinary. I feel extremely lucky. The team has stayed as competitive as it has and has had support from GM all this time along with the support from all the Corvette people – the whole Corvette family. It’s a great marketing machine and great racing team. I’m very honored to be part of it for so long.”

Teammates then and now

“Every single driver I’ve driven with has had their different personalities and how to do it. When I look back at 2004-06, Olivier (Beretta), Jan (Magnussen) and I could have taken on any driver lineup on the grid no matter if it were prototype or GT. Put us in any car and we would be a force to be reckoned with. Then I look at this year at Sebring and Le Mans with Tommy (Milner) and Richard (Westbrook), it’s when you can get a synergy between three drivers in a race. You know the team is working well, pit stops are going well and strategy is well. It didn’t work out for us at Sebring or Le Mans but it gives you that special feeling when all three of you are in the car and you’re firing on all eight cylinders.”

Keep on keeping on

“The things that keep me engaged and motivated and wanting drive on are the new evolutions of our program that are coming out – whether it’s with Michelin and our tires or the new C7 with Corvette – or the new cars that our competition comes with and how we end up racing against those. You want to win races – as many as possible. You want as many records as you can – whether it’s at Sebring or Le Mans or in the ALMS or with Corvette Racing. You can’t sit back and say that you know it all and be comfortable with what you’ve done. It’s a constant moving and evolving sport. Once you take your foot off the pedal, you’ll be left behind. You have to stay engaged and alert with your team to make yourself and the team better and quicker.”

The four-hour VIR 240 from Virginia International Raceway is scheduled for 2:30pm ET on Saturday, September 15. ESPN2's broadcast begins at 5 pm ET on Sunday, September 16. Full, live coverage starts at 2:15pm ET on ESPN3.

The Series' website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world. Viewers outside the U.S. can watch the VIR round and all ALMS races live on ALMS.com.

Courtesy ALMS

Last modified on Thursday, 13 September 2012 10:27
Published in Breaking News
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