Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin is en route to California for the second time in a month with the aim of taking his second win from three races at the four-hour American Le Mans Series Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 9-11, round three of the ALMS. The Briton will once again be taking his Corvette C6.R into the thick of an intense, and no doubt thrilling, GT battle, the last race in the USA before the team head to Europe to compete in the world’s biggest sportscar race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Here, the Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire (UK), resident gives his views on the weekend ahead:
Q: Do you think the nature of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track will even up, or accentuate, the power advantage that GT competitors such as the Vipers appear to have?
A: I think it could even up that power advantage as Laguna has a low top speed relative to somewhere like Road America; it’s not necessarily a power track. There are some corners which, if you have a torquey engine like the Vipers do, you can punch out of, but it’s not an out-and-out horsepower track and that will suit us well.
Q: How does the longer race allow you to vary your strategy, and do you think this will play into your hands?
A: I think the longer race format is going to play into our hands. We have performed well over the longer races recently and I really feel we have got the best team. We regularly make up time on people in the pits, either with quick tire changes, how we play our fuel strategy or the strategy in general: we’ve got a great group of guys. These races are so tight it sometimes comes down to when you take your last stop and how much fuel you take on and, with a longer race, you’ve got a far wider strategy window to play with. We’re, of course, not the only ones who are good at that side – BMW and Rahal Letterman Racing has always been very strong on strategy – but everyone is improving and it’s going to be close.
Q: Can you tell who your main rivals will be or is it too close to call?
A: It’s honestly too close to call for this race. Porsche has always been good there and the new Core Autosport entry can’t be underestimated. Whether they have everything together yet to compete at the same level as everyone else, I don’t know but they will be quick. Ferrari has traditionally been good at Laguna, and Falken has been improving race on race, so it’s difficult to pin point who is going to be our main rivals.
Q: What track conditions can you expect for the race weekend?
A: Looking at the forecast, it looks as though it could be quite cool (low 60s) so how well you make your tires work could steer the outcome of the race; they will certainly play a big part in the weekend. There’s likely to be plenty of cautions and incidents with 36 plus cars in the field, it makes for a full race track. Additionally the track surface is always very dusty which adds to the challenges. The GT class drives round in a high speed train and it only really gets broken up when there’s an incident, or when you come against faster or slower traffic. You have to be 100% on top of your game and concentrating fully; you can’t afford one slip up otherwise you won’t finish in the top five let alone on the podium.