Olly gave his 2013 American Le Mans Season the best possible start this weekend by winning the 12 Hours of Sebring with team mates Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. The victory in his No.4 Corvette C6.R was his fifth at the famous Florida track, the last being in 2007, and was all the more savoured as it had been a roller-coaster event which forced Olly and the team to come back from adversity not once, but twice.
An overjoyed Oliver said afterwards: “It means an awful lot to win here, coming off the back of last year’s championship, which was a fantastic year for everyone at Corvette Racing, especially as we missed out on the ‘big ones’ in 2012. It didn’t go right for us at Sebring, Le Mans or Petit Le Mans so there was a lot of focus on this year’s race. It was incredibly hard racing from start to finish and that makes the win even better as well.”
Current ALMS GT Drivers Champion, Olly, qualified second in the super-competitive GT class behind the pole-setting Risi Ferrari of Gimmi Bruni and took the start of the 61st edition of the race. The Briton made a superb start as the green flag dropped and not only got into the lead but went on to pull out a substantial gap to his rivals. The No.4 maintained that lead for most of the first 80 laps of the race until the first of the setbacks occurred while Richard Westbrook was at the wheel.
Olly explains what happens: “Richard said it was like an indoor firework going off! There was a small electrical fire behind the dashboard in the car due to a wiring issue but fortunately Richard was at Turn 17 when it happened so he quickly peeled off into the pits. Unfortunately the damage had already knocked out the pit lane speed limiter and we ended up not only losing a bit of time for repairs but we had to serve a penalty for the pit lane speeding.”
Luckily the quick thinking of one of Corvette’s mechanics prevented the damage from being greater, and it meant the drivers were soon back on track trying to bring themselves back into contention for the lead. Circumstances were working against the No.4, however, and they were frustrated to find themselves behind again when an unfortunate incident with another GT car saw Richard Westbrook being penalised by officials.
“Blue flags were being waved,” notes Olly, “but I don’t think the #23 driver saw them and he ended up going off. It wasn’t intentional contact and I think the stop/go plus 60 seconds was a bit harsh as it put us way back again.
“By this time the Risi Ferrari had got into quite a good lead but we set about chipping away at it. Tommy was absolutely brilliant in the last two hours, stringing together qualifying lap after qualifying lap, and that combined with some fantastic pit stops from the Corvette Racing guys got us back in the game. He put the pressure on the Ferrari until it paid off, seven laps before the end. It was a great result for everyone on the team and I’m really, really happy.”
Olly’s next race will be the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California on Saturday 20th April.