The inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix provided incidents and accidents aplenty in yesterday’s two-hour street race. The packed grandstands and estimated crowd of 150,000 enthusiastic fans witnessed a terrific GT battle which saw Oliver Gavin and his team mate Jan Magnussen overcome a first-lap incident and the debilitating effects of exhaust fumes to take third place and some valuable points for their championship title place.
Despite this, the overwhelming feeling for the British driver was one of frustration as the weekend promised much but failed to fully deliver.
After overcoming a lack of track time in the compressed practice session on Friday, the No. 4 car – in the hands of Magnussen – nevertheless put in a great effort in qualifying to secure a front row starting place. With few laps under his belt, Oliver was looking forward to the morning warm up session to better familiarize himself with the 2.1 mile Baltimore track, but an engine misfire added to the driver’s frustration.
In hot and humid conditions, the Dane took the start but was involved in a multi-car pile-up in the first corner that pinned the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R against the wall and allowed the entire field to pass. Fired up, Jan was then a man on a mission, going from 12th to fourth in 22 laps.
The first-turn contact had, however, damaged a tyre and the Corvette was forced to make an additional, unplanned pit stop for a fresh set of Michelins. When Olly took the wheel at the mid-race mark, the No. 4 Corvette was third after the restart for the race’s second full-course caution and held that position to the end in a battered and bruised race car.
Oliver had to cope with the after-effects of the first-lap incident during his one-hour stint as a damaged exhaust allowed fumes into the cockpit. Despite feeling woozy, and suffering from a pounding headache because of the carbon monoxide fumes, he pulled to within three seconds of the second-place No. 56 BMW, but after an excursion up the escape road in Turn 1, he brought the No. 4 Corvette C6.R home in third place.
“Unfortunately our race was decided by the contact in the first turn,” Olly said. “After that we were playing catch-up, and Jan did a brilliant job of getting the car into a decent position. With the damage to the front of the car caused by the first lap accident, we lost mechanical grip on the front tyres and suffered from massive understeer.
“As well as the headache, my eyes were stinging because of the damaged exhaust system, and I just tried to keep fresh air blowing toward my helmet. I went to the medical centre for some treatment after the race and felt much better after receiving oxygen, but I’m very frustrated that we lost the chance to potentially win this race. It was critical for our championship hopes and now the challenge will be even greater in the next two races. They are, however, longer races and there are more points up for grabs so nothing is impossible and we’ll be more determined than ever.”