Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin this year completed his 10th full season with the all-conquering American giant, and finished the final-ever American Le Mans Series season in 3rd place in the GT standings – ceding his, and team mate Tommy Milner’s, 2012 Championship title to Corvette team mates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
Here’s a quick glimpse at the highs and lows of the super-successful British GT driver’s racing year, beginning with the top 5 moments:
1) The 12 Hours of Sebring was huge, partly because of the way the race unfolded. We were very quick in the early stages, and then had two major hurdles put in front of us with first a fire in the cockpit and then a penalty. We were almost two laps down but we managed to chase down the class-leading Ferrari and it was a really tight battle at the end. Tommy did a fantastic job in the car and got us back into the lead with 14 minutes to go; it was a great victory for everyone on our team and the perfect way to kick off the 2013 ALMS season.
2) Our next victory was at Mosport (now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) and that was another race which I started. I got us as close as possible to the leading Viper for the first 75 or 80 minutes and then, thanks to a brilliant job in the pits by the crew, Tommy started his stint from the lead. He drove a fantastic defensive race, with Dominik Farnbacher’s Viper on his tail for pretty much the whole time right to the chequered flag. The team were ace on the pits stops and that gave us that little bit of breathing space when the tyres were cold for example. Tommy really drove very well there to hold them off and get the victory.
3) Baltimore at the end of August was another great circuit and event to go to, even though the race was marred by a huge crash at the start which, fortunately, both our cars managed to miss. I was looking forward to racing there because in practice I’d felt really in the groove and felt that our car would be quick. We ended up finishing 2nd behind our team mates and, as things turned out, that would be our last time on the podium in 2013.
4) Bizarrely, perhaps, one of my highlights was being able to watch Antonio in the No.3 Corvette perform at COTA in Austin in pretty much the slowest GT car on the track. He did an amazing job to pull out a victory and the team’s strategy was also perfect.
5) Another highlight was being able to watch Jan and Antonio wraping up the championship at Petit Le Mans, even though that was a rather disappointing race for us in the No.4 car after we’d had alternator problems and a couple of other minor glitches. Despite that, I had a huge amount of fun driving in that race, helping the No.3 out to get them to where they needed to be to win the championship. With the benefit of experience, you realise that some years are not going to be ‘your year’ and, if you can’t win, you want your team mates to win. They’d endured a very difficult 2012 and they thoroughly deserved to win the championship this year.
And the lows, in no particular order…
1) The COTA race had to be one of the biggest lows, as our broken gearbox and subsequent retirement effectively put paid to our championship title hopes.
2) Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was also pretty dire, with transmission problems (again) putting paid to our chance of winning that race.
3) Lime Rock Park. Our race unravelled right from Turn 1 of the first lap after contact from another GT car, and then in the pits. It was one of those races you want to write off in your memory for all time!
4) My experience with Aston Martin Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. I should stress this has nothing to do with the team, the series or any of the people I worked with there, but wholly with the disappointing outcome in terms of result, the car retiring with suspension damage. It was great to work with a high level team and for me to experience the rarity of being a British driver in a British car with a British team.
5) I know I won’t be the only one who will count this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours as memorable for all the wrong reasons. I was running right behind Allan Simonsen’s car and I shall never be able to forget what happened…every single one of us in motor racing, and sports car racing in particular, hopes and prays we won’t see that again.
I don’t want to end on that negative note though as we all have to look forward and not back, learn from our mistakes or use experiences good and bad to make us stronger. Next year offers new challenges for lots of us racing in North America with the inaugural season of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. It’s only weeks away now so I wish you all a Happy Christmas/Happy Holidays. Here’s to a successful 2014!