A puncture is the latest in a long line of unforeseen calamities to affect Oliver Gavin, and the Corvette Racing ace is battling to maintain a positive outlook after recovering an unrepresentative seventh place from the TUDOR United SportsCar Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach (17-18 April).
GT Le Mans (GTLM) qualifying for the TUDOR Championship Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach was a closely-fought affair and there was nothing to choose between Jan Magnussen and Gavin in the #3 and #4 Corvette Racing entries.
Last year’s Long Beach race winner, Magnussen, took the car he shares with Antonio Garcia to a 1m17.756s to better the 2014 pole time and go fourth in class, a mere 0.020s quicker than fifth-placed Gavin who had his qualifying preparation compromised.
The #4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R required front-end repairs following a collision with a slow-moving Daytona Prototype (DP), subsequently losing critical track time in the final free practice session of the weekend and placing a frustrated Gavin on the back foot prior to qualifying.
“The weekend started pretty well and we were the fastest car that didn’t run new tyres in Friday morning practice, but the session prior to qualifying is where everything started to unravel,” said Gavin. “It was mega frustrating for us in the #4 Corvette and some crazy things happened.
“It looked like we were getting a good run on new tyres, and coming out of Turn 6 into Turn 8, I’m behind a DP car that pretty much parked at the apex and I ran into the back of him. We did some damage to our car. We were able to go back out at the end, but the car wasn’t quite right.”
Gavin added: “Chuck Houghton, our Lead Engineer, made a good change before the start of qualifying and the car felt pretty good. However, everything was frantic and I didn’t have a cool head going into the session. I couldn’t quite execute a perfect lap and I left time on the table in some corners. I felt the car was good enough for third and the data showed that. I feel a little bit frustrated with myself, but the lap times were super close.”
The fates continued to conspire against the #4 Corvette Racing crew in the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase itself on Saturday (18 April), as the street race began with yet more contact for Gavin, this time involving a Porsche GTLM entry.
A somewhat disjointed and typically chaotic start on the narrow, wall-lined streets of Long Beach ultimately led to an unfortunate collision, the gap between Gavin and the #912 Porsche of Richard Lietz evaporating as the field jostled for position through the Turn 2 right-hander.
A second nudge on the right-front corrected Gavin’s course and the British ace, now seventh, was able to settle into the rhythm of the race without any debilitating wounds to speak of, when an completely unrelated left-front puncture necessitated an unscheduled tyre change, dashing all hopes of a podium result for the #4 Corvette Racing crew.
Gavin and teammate Tommy Milner were resigned to seventh on the road thereafter and, frustrated to still be caught in a long-running cycle of misfortune, a tormented Gavin said: “The run down to Turn 1 was pretty disjointed because everybody tried to get a good run out of the last corner at the start. I was right behind Jan (Magnussen) with the Porsche to my right and the gap closed, resulting in an unfortunate collision on the right-rear that span me around, only for a second touch on my right-front to correct the spin. There are always pinch points and the nature of the Long Beach street circuit contributed to it, but the incident shaped the race for the #912 Porsche and that’s regrettable.
“I thought the car felt okay thereafter and I had a comfortable rhythm when a left-front puncture came out of nowhere. I believed we were strong and a podium contender, even after the first-lap contact, but the puncture and we were relying on carrying out our driver-change during a full-course caution to bring us back into play. Sadly, we never had that opportunity and seventh was the most we could muster.
“We just keep bouncing from one completely random incident to the next and these things are completely out of our control, which is hugely frustrating. The longer it persists, the more difficult it becomes to take crumbs of comfort from the fact you were capable of achieving a decent result. You have to remain positive, keep moving forwards and learn from these experiences, so we head to Laguna Seca with the belief that our fortunes will turn around.”