For Oliver Gavin, the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America was dominated by an entertaining, race-long exchange with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s BMW contingent, although the British ace was left feeling slightly frustrated with his seventh place result (8-9 August).
Gavin and his Corvette Racing team went to Wisconsin without conducting a pre-Road America test and the aim was to negate any consequential deficits during Friday’s free practice sessions.
Torrential rain thwarted all attempts to find a suitable baseline setup and assess Michelin’s three tyre compounds and teams had a narrow 60-minute window on Saturday (8 August) morning in which to determine the correct course for qualifying and the race.
Ultimately, Corvette Racing took an educated guess with the setups of its Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs, but Gavin’s American teammate, Tommy Milner, successfully overcame a slight brake locking issue to qualify the #4 car fifth, right in the GTLM pack.
However, it became evident as the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase unfolded that the Porsche and Ferrari GTLM entries were in a race of their own, drawing away and leaving the Corvettes to scrap over the lesser points positions with the Falken Porsche and the BMWs.
The momentum migrated from one marque to the other as strategies played out and Corvette Racing was a well-oiled machine in the stops, having worked extensively on slashing the time spent in the driver changes, to place Gavin right in the middle of a highly entertaining fight for fifth, sixth and seventh positions during the last stint.
On the preferred tyre, Gavin honed in on BMW Team RLL’s Lucas Luhr and got a run on the German through Canada corner in the final throes of the 2h40m race, spotting an opportunity to follow in the wheel tracks of a faster prototype machine and nose up the outside of his class rival.
The brawling pair bashed wheels as the ran side-by-side down to Turn 13. Luhr leant on the #4 Corvette through the left-hander until Gavin was scrambling for grip on the grass with no time to recover the lost ground and try to better his seventh place before the chequered flag.
“I think we all drove really hard, and raced hard with the BMWs,” said Gavin. “It was a little frustrating at the end there. I thought I was racing Lucas (Luhr) pretty fair, but he put me in the grass coming out of Turn 13. I didn’t think that needed to happen, but sometimes that is just racing. I looked after the tyres reasonably well throughout the final stint and gained a lot of time on all those ahead of me, but there were definitely two races in the GTLM division, the first between Porsche and Ferrari and the second involving Corvette and BMW.
“When it is like that and you’re waiting to pick up the pieces from other’s mistakes or misfortune, it’s very demoralising and frustrating. Of course, free practice was a complete washout and our chance to find a good base setup and examine the tyres was gone, but Tommy (Milner) did a solid job to qualify fifth. Some of our race was shaped by testing different configurations in a bid to boost the #3 Corvette’s title push, but, taking that into consideration, we can’t seem to have everybody in the same class racing for all of the positions. Frustrating.”
For more information on Oliver Gavin and his racing activities, please visit the official www.olivergavin.com website, ‘like’ his Facebook page or follow @olivergavin on Twitter.