How does a newly-crowned American Le Mans Series GT Champion prepare for one of the season’s biggest races, the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans? Well, as far as Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin is concerned, there’s only one way to approach any race, and that’s with a view to winning it.
The British driver has taken class honours at the tricky and challenging Petit Le Mans race five times previously and he and co-GT Champion, Tommy Milner, plan to notch up a fifth victory to round off an amazing 2012 season in style. They will be joined at Road Atlanta, Georgia by their regular endurance team mate, Richard Westbrook.
Here Olly gives his views on all things concerning the forthcoming Petit Le Mans.
On Petit Le Mans:
“There aren’t the same pressures on us as last year, to get a decent result, and I think it’ll change our approach for the better. If our car isn’t at the top of the time sheets every session, or if we don’t get pole or aren’t at the front straight away, it doesn’t mean we won’t win the race because we’ve got absolute faith in the car and ourselves. We’ll take a balanced view on it and will certainly be competing as hard as ever as we want that fifth win of the year.
“It’s a 1000 miles though and possibly a ten hour race because the faster cars like Audi and Toyota aren’t there this year to speed it up. It’s also being held slightly later in the year and starting 30 minutes later in the day so we’ll run a lot longer in the dark which will be an added challenge. It will come down to being smart in the dark over those final couple of hours when, historically, Road Atlanta gets extremely difficult and tricky to drive due to either traffic, people going off, or lack of vision. It’s a lot less well lit than some of the other night races we do.”
On the additional ELMS entries, bringing the total field to 43: “Without a doubt there have been some hairy moments in the ALMS this year, with some drivers who aren’t as experienced as others at the start or on re-starts, and that presents the biggest danger to any competitor. Restarts in the night, on cold tyres and in the cooler evenings at that time of year, plus guys who are new to the circuit and haven’t driven that much in the dark – whether they are prototypes or GT cars – are going to be a big challenge. You’re going to have to have your wits about you and be really focussed on those re-starts to make sure you avoid what can often be carnage. As we’ve seen all through the year, the thing which ends up getting you victories or podiums is to not make any errors and we’ve been able to execute that through most of the season. It’s all about staying out of the pits, not going off the road and trying not to hit anybody.
On his co-champion, Tommy Milner:
“He brings to our partnership a very level head and he’s mature for his years, both in and out of the car plus, of course, he has great speed! This year he’s grown a lot in understanding what he needs to do for our car to be winning races and he’s smart. He’s dealt with the pressure of this year exceptionally well. An example of this was at VIR, when the pressure was obviously on us to deliver a win: he didn’t twitch, he was icy cool in the car, just doing his job and driving as if it was a test session. He did a phenomenal job and the pressure never seemed to show on him – a really great team mate.”
On endurance team mate, Richard Westbrook: “Richard is someone who’s very fast and hungry for victories and he’s very focussed on what he wants from the car and is hugely competitive. He can also be a great person to have around the team for morale, as there’s always a bit of banter and he’s always got a joke or a bit of fun. He makes sure he slots in with Tommy and me and the rest of the crew who’ve been together all year, although he’s aware he’s just coming in for the three endurance races – Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans. That’s a tough role to fulfil but he does it well and I get to return the favour at the Daytona 24!”
Race details: Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda is 1,000 miles or 10 hours (whichever comes first) of gruelling racing up, down and around the foothills of northern Georgia. With the exception of the deluge suffered during the 2009 race, each Petit Le Mans has gone the distance with run times ranging from 8h 56 minutes (1999) to 9h 48 minutes (1998). The final race of the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón is scheduled to start at 11.30 am (ET) on Saturday, 20th October.