To refer to yesterday’s penultimate round of the 2013 American Le Mans Series at VIR as a ‘bad day at the office’ for the current GT Drivers’ champion, Oliver Gavin, is probably a great understatement in the eyes of the British driver. It was, however, a good day for the company and team he represents, Chevrolet and Corvette Racing, who wrapped up the Manufacturers and Teams’ GT titles – proving that there’s balance to be found in everything.
After a disastrous race two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas in Texas, when the No.4 Corvette C6.R of Gavin and his team mate Tommy Milner was retired prematurely due to a gearbox issue, the duo knew that they needed nothing less than a GT win in order to keep their championship hopes alive. Their 6th place finish at the hot and humid VIR track in Alton, Virginia came at the end of a topsy-turvy day which included a number of incidences of contact with other cars on the fast, narrow circuit.
Starting from 9th place on the grid following a disrupted qualifying session which saw Milner skid off track on oil laid down by a Ferrari, Oliver had a rough-and-tumble two hours that saw him work his way into the top five at one point before multiple incidents of contact and a one-minute penalty awarded following a collision with a GTC put him well down the order.
Team mate Milner rose up to fourth in the final hour of the race, but was badly blocked in the final 10 minutes by one of the BMWs and the Corvette had to settle for 6th or risk not finishing.
Oliver said afterwards: “Today was a really bad day for me, one of the worst I’ve had for some time. Every way I seemed to turn, there was contact or people hitting me. The track is so narrow and slick at times with the different amounts of dust and rubber on it; it makes for a very tricky surface to race on.
“The first stop was a great job by the guys to get us from almost last to almost first. But after that, something silly would always happen, culminating in me having contact with a slower GTC car which slowed dramatically on both apexes of the last corner before pit entry. We both ended up spinning, I fell back, and then had to serve a minute penalty. It was super-frustrating.
“Fortunately we got one of the three full course cautions in the race at the right time and got Tommy in the car. He did a great job all the way to the end under difficult conditions, but it was a rough day and weekend for the No. 4 car. The only bright side was that the main aim of securing the Manufacturers title for GM and Chevrolet was achieved, with one round of the series still to go. With Petit Le Mans being a 1000 Mile or ten-hour race, offering more points, there is always an outside chance that luck might favour us in some way for second place in the championship but it’s going to be tough.”