A steering issue brought an end to a potential top six finish in the Australian V8 Supercars PIRTEK Enduro Cup at the Wilson Security Sandown 500 (11-13 September) for Hire A Hubby-backed Oliver Gavin, who now refocuses his attentions to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s outing at the Circuit of the Americas (CotA) with Corvette Racing (18-20 September).
Jumping straight into free practice on Friday (11 September), Gavin and his young gun teammate, Nick Percat, were chasing a vibration in their Triple Eight-built Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodore throughout the day.
Nonetheless, the pair, who took a podium at Bathurst last year, continued on in earnest and fettled the setup on their V8 Supercar ahead of qualifying the following day (12 September), where a combined effort in both the co-driver and main driver races would see them line-up on the fifth row in tenth for the start of the 161 lap race on Sunday (13 September).
Gavin would take the start and, aware of the responsibility of getting to the end of the endurance race, the Hire A Hubby-backed driver jumped two of his Aussie rivals at the start before the reached Turn 1 to run in a solid eighth position, as the field began to settle in.
With limited run-off areas at Sandown, Gavin kept his Commodore within the white lines and remained firmly inside the top ten and attacking the drivers in front, climbing to seventh and running as top international driver against the likes of Alex Buncombe and Sébastien Bourdais, before a steering issue saw the Brit leave the track at Turn 1 and run wide.
A severe vibration from the front right saw Gavin crawl back to the pits, where the team worked tirelessly to fix the problem and get the car back out on track, but the decision was taken to retire the car.
“It was great to be back racing at Sandown alongside Nick (Percat) in the V8 Supercar championship,” said Gavin. “Our test day at Winton in the lead up to the weekend went pretty well. We had a bit of weather and some minor issues with the car, but I got myself back into it. Practice and qualifying seemed to race by, as the co-drivers are allocated 30-minutes, so, consequently, when it comes round for your qualifying race, you’re sitting in the car thinking you’ve not done too many laps for a race that determines where your teammate starts. I felt my qualifying race went pretty well. I was a little gun shy at the start and didn’t make a particularly good start, but from there I was then trying to keep myself out of trouble and get to the end to get more of an understanding of the car and championship ahead of the race on Sunday. I felt that by the end of it I had got to grips with the car, as I set my fastest lap on the final lap.
“Nick did his qualification race on Saturday afternoon and did very well, overcoming some straight line speed issues with his performance to finish 10th for the race on Sunday, where I was able to get a good start, jumping two positions by the time we reached Turn 1. I was then able to gap the guys behind and was one of the fastest cars out on track, but on lap 16, as I turned in at the apex the front right steering clevis failed. I pulled into the garage and the guys jumped straight onto the car trying to fix it, but other complications with other issues got in the way. I was sent back out again to complete some laps to see how the car was, where we realised the car was still badly damaged. We then run out of time to complete the minimum number of laps and the decision was made to retire the car.
Gavin continued: “It was one of those weekends where we showed plenty of potential and car speed, but we kept having those little issues. Sometimes that is how weekends go and we are in a reasonable position going into Bathurst with our tyre bank. A rather silver lining to a dark cloud, but it is great to be back driving with Nick and the LDM team, who worked their socks off on the car all weekend.”
Gavin is now set to traverse the Pacific Ocean for the penultimate race on the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship calendar at Circuit of the Americas (CotA), a state-of-the-art facility, set in the rolling hills just outside of downtown Austin, Texas.
The circuit, constructed in 2012, is designed to challenge the world’s most exacting competitors and its counter-clockwise configuration, which takes advantage of the naturally undulating landscape, is dominated by an intimidating 133-foot climb up to Turn 1.
Austin, meanwhile, is perhaps the coolest and most diverse cities in America and is fast becoming the ultimate motor racing destination due to its electric nightlife and authentic, finger-lickin’ Texan cuisine.
However, Gavin is desperately craving the sweet taste of victory after a luckless TUDOR Championship campaign and Corvette Racing will continue its big push entering the final throes of the 2015 season.
“It’s always one of the best weekends of the year coming to the Circuit of the Americas (CotA), as it has some of the best facilities and is a track that us drivers get a great sense of satisfaction from,” said Gavin. “It’s a high speed track with great amount of grips and we always enjoy coming here, but we will see how the new balance of performance plays out. Porsche have a 20kg weight adjustment for this weekend and we will trying our hardest to get the best result for the team.”