CORVETTE RACING AT LE MANS: Oliver Gavin Q&A
Ahead of 12th Le Mans start with Corvette Racing
LE MANS, France (June 16, 2013) – Oliver Gavin’s Le Mans career with Corvette Racing reaches the “dandy dozen” level this year when the Englishman makes his 12th start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22. The four-time winner – who drives the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook – discusses the challenge of Le Mans.
Question: How important was the victory at the Sebring 12 Hours in March, and can you take anything from that to Le Mans?
Oliver Gavin: The momentum we gained at Sebring can put us in good stead for Le Mans. I think it’s something that will give us a certain amount of confidence, especially coming off the battles of winning the ALMS championship last year. Tommy and I have really established a very good partnership. We seem to work really well together. Some races, we are right together in terms of lap time and that’s fantastic; it’s happening more and more now. It’s great to see that this partnership is working so well.
Q: What is the secret to Corvette Racing’s success?
OG: It starts with the people at the top – those who are running the program whether it is people like Doug Fehan (program manager), Gary Pratt (team manager) and Doug Louth (engineering manager). They do the basics very, very well. They aren’t trying to overcomplicate things. They know they don’t have to re-engineer the wheel. They aren’t trying to find a silver bullet. They know that to win the 24 Hours, you have to have good pit stops, cars that are strong and reliable, and drivers who can drive them. You have to have momentum going into it where everyone is confident and comfortable with their jobs. That’s the reason Corvette has been so successful. It’s nothing secret.
Q: With all the depth in the GTE Pro class, do you think the strongest competitor may come from within your own team with the No. 73 car?
OG: They have two of the most experienced drivers in the whole field in Antonio (Garcia) and Jan (Magnussen). I’ve never driven with Antonio but I’ve driven with Jan for four years off and on so I know how strong a competitor he is. It’s a huge amount of fun racing with and against him. Antonio is much the same. Whereas Jan can be a bit bullish, feisty and will hound you throughout, Antonio operates a bit under stealth. He is an assassin who creeps up on you, bangs you over the head and passes you. He’s a very clever guy in the car and is calculating all the time in the car. That’s a great thing to have in a 24-hour race – thinking constantly about the long game and not necessarily what’s happening right in front of him at that point. And then Jordan (Taylor) is going from strength to strength. Sure, he’s lacking experience at Le Mans but he’s gaining confidence all the time. He is having great success in GRAND-AM and hopefully he comes to Le Mans full of confidence and ready to go. Jordan is learning all the time and is maturing. He is willing to listen and is great to have on board.
Q: So who do you think presents the biggest challenge at Le Mans?
OG: If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Aston Martin (being the biggest threat). They’ve loaded everything up into this one year. It’s their 100th anniversary and it’s their opportunity to nail it for a victory at Le Mans. They have great lineups and experience. They were exceptionally fast at Sebring, Silverstone and Spa. For the first couple hours (at Le Mans) in 2012, I was racing against (Stefan) Mucke as I remember racing the Aston Martins in 2005-08. Porsche also have been very smart approaching this year. They aren’t to be underestimated and never show up just to bolster numbers. The real unknown is SRT and Viper. They have been fast in a lot of races. We don’t know whether that big 8-liter motor is going to make a difference. You can’t get away from the fact that Le Mans is all about horsepower. It’s all very new for them. Whether their car is right for 24 hours is the biggest question. Then there is Ferrari who always is right there. The class is incredibly strong. I can’t remember it being as strong as it is right now.”
The next time Corvette Racing takes to the circuit at Le Mans is 4 p.m. CET/10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 19 for free practice and qualifying. Corvette Racing will go for its eighth class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 at 3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 22 with live coverage on SPEED.
Le Mans 24 Hours (all times CET)
• Practice/qualifying: 4-8 p.m., 10 p.m.-midnight, Wednesday
• Qualifying: 7-9 p.m., 10 p.m.-midnight, Thursday
• Warm-up: 9-9:45 a.m., Saturday
• Race: 3 p.m. Saturday-3 p.m., Sunday
Le Mans: Watch It!
Saturday, June 22-Sunday, June 23 (all times EDT)
• SPEED: 8:30 a.m-2 p.m., Saturday; 4-7 p.m., Saturday; 7:30 p.m., Saturday-9:30 a.m., Sunday
• SPEED.com: 2-4 p.m., Saturday; 7-7:30 p.m., Saturday
• Corvette 24-Hour Live Stream: 9 a.m. Saturday-9 a.m. Sunday