As has so often been seen and experienced by competitors in every class and on every continent, endurance races can bite you when you least expect it. Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook had the lead of the GT class firmly in hand just as the six hour mark was about to tick over for the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta when a steering failure temporarily side-lined the No.4 car in the pits. The resulting delay of 27 laps meant that the fairy tale finish and a fifth win in 2012, so eagerly sought by Olly to round off his GT Championship-winning season, wasn’t to be and he had to content himself with 12th in class.
Olly made a good start at the event which lasts for 1000 miles or ten hours, whichever comes first, and jumped ahead of the No.55 BMW into second in the GT class. It took him just 40 minutes to get close enough to safely make a pass on the class-leading Ferrari and he handed over to Tommy just before the first hour of the race ticked over. Both Tommy and Richard Westbrook, the regular duo’s endurance driving partner, carried on the great work and by the fifth hour the field had shaken and things had settled into a rhythm.
Tommy was half way into his second stint in the car when he unexpectedly and suddenly experienced a steering rack failure and it soon became clear that the car would need serious attention in the pits.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for Tommy and I,” reflected Olly, “and everyone on the #4 car and within Corvette Racing. It’s a shame we couldn’t finish off today with a victory but we were competing at the front again as we’ve done all year. It’s a great shame not just for us but also that the #3 car didn’t get the victory as they were super close and fighting really hard.
“It was good racing with Scott Sharp at the start and pretty close, but I managed to get by him after he made a small mistake at turn 6 after being behind him for about 25 laps. I knew I had to pounce on that opportunity and got by and pulled away a little bit. When I came back for my second stint I knew Scott was in the car and that I had to get on with it and get by as fast as possible. Once I got this done, I managed to pull out a nice lead.”
With the season now at an end, and the Championship trophies and accolades due to be awarded at the end-of-year banquet tomorrow, Olly summed up the final round: “There was a lot of promise today. We really had a good car to fight with, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.”
The No.4 will live to fight another Petit Le Mans in 2013.