Today’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series promised much for Oliver Gavin and the Corvette Racing team. Starting from second on the ultra-competitive GT grid, the British driver drove an exceptional race but was ultimately denied a podium place through incidents which befell his No. 4 Corvette C6.R. He finished fourth behind two BMWs and the sister No. 3 Corvette of Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia.
“The start was good,” smiled Olly, “and I managed to get past Gimmi Bruni’s Ferrari and stay in front for a little while. On our qualifying tyres the car wasn’t very settled, plus any amount of dust on the track and our performance started to suffer, so Gimmi got up alongside me. He gave me a couple of taps as he went by but that was fine! After we’d fitted some different tyres, I had some good track fights with the BMWs and with Jaime Melo in the Risi Ferrari – it reminded me a lot of Le Mans and was good fun. I thought we were in a cracking position.”
Unfortunately, after handing the car over to Jan Magnussen, it was involved in an incident with two other cars. Running third at the restart after a caution period, contact in Turn 17 with Patrick Long’s Porsche caused both cars to spin. The following Ferrari F458 of Johannes van Overbeek then spun, colliding with the Corvette and damaging its right rear suspension. The Ferrari subsequently retired, while Magnussen manhandled the Corvette to the pits for repairs. Six minutes later, the Corvette crew had him back on track, albeit two laps down to the GT leader. To add insult to injury, the Corvette was penalized for crewmembers working on the car while the pits were closed, losing yet another lap.
“That was really the undoing of our race,” said Olly. “We lost all that time fixing the car and the penalty was a double whammy. We fought back well though and had good pace in the car and we were chipping away at the gap but couldn’t quite make that jump to get in front of the BMWs to get ourselves back on the same lap. We needed another caution period really.
“After we changed tire compounds I thought we’d have a shot at the podium, but it was perhaps a bit too early. This was one of the wildest 12 hours I’ve ever raced and we were almost there but the BMWs are so quick. I think they’re going to be the car to beat this year.”
Olly’s next race will be the Grand-Am Rolex Series’ third round at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, 9th April.