The Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) produced more disappointment for Oliver Gavin (22-23 August) and the British ace is now switching gears prior to a second attack on the Australian V8 Supercars PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
The way the weekend at VIR played out was all too familiar for the Corvette Racing team. It was evident from the outset of free practice that the Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs would be no match for Porsche and Ferrari due to an apparent disparity in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Balance of Performance (BoP).
Even so, the Pratt & Miller-led team’s ‘never say die’ attitude resulted in experiments with contrasting aero configurations in an attempt to reduce its deficit, but Gavin and teammate Tommy Milner could only muster the seventh fastest time in qualifying.
“We knew from the start of the weekend that it was going to be difficult, so we experimented with setups,” said Gavin. “Each car went in different directions with the aero balance and we took a high downforce, high drag configuration, but the less downforce, low-drag setup appeared to be the best compromise over an entire lap, so that’s how we decided to race.”
Gavin took the start of the 2h40m race on Sunday (23 August) and spent the majority of his stint trading places with the #25 Team RLL BMW Z4 in the hands of Bill Auberlen in a physical, yet fair fight over sixth position.
Gavin soon got the better of his BMW rival and sat in the wake of the #3 Corvette shared by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia and the final phase of his stint, while relatively straightforward, was punctuated by a spin for Auberlen when the Californian attempted a retaliatory lunge at Turn 1.
“I had fun during my stint in the car while in a race with Jan (Magnussen) and Bill (Auberlen),” said Gavin. “We could race the BMWs well and I knew it would be important to get passed Auberlen as quickly as possible, aware that the #25 car is Corvette Racing’s chief rival for the GTLM title, so I towed up behind and made a move. There was a lot of chopping and changing and we a bit of rubbing and he eventually overcooked a lunge at Turn 1 to spin out in front of me for the second time this season! Thankfully, I missed him and I basically saw out the rest of my stint behind Jan, mindful of the fact that we were tight on fuel and had to eke out each stint.”
Milner took the reins and undercut Garcia in the #3 Corvette, holding fourth with the pace to maintain position and manage his five-second gap over those behind, although a slow fuel-flow rate saw the #4 car lose positions in the stops and it was up to Milner to bridge the gap with some committed driving.
Pushing hard, the American racer had a half-spin at Turn 3, but showed good car control to avoid losing track position, but his pace was compromised thereafter and he would relinquish a place to Garcia before making a third splash and dash with one lap to go, contrary to the team’s original strategy.
An eighth place finish was the end result and Gavin said: “Tommy pushed really hard and just got caught out, but he managed to continue on his way. We hadn’t saved enough fuel throughout the race and that necessitated another fuel stop with one lap remaining, resigning us to eighth. It’s very frustrating for everybody at Corvette Racing because everything seems stacked against us and, no matter how hard we try, sixth or seventh is the best we can hope for at the moment. We’ll be back fighting at Circuit of the Americas and I hope we have more on-track battles, this time for the podium places.”
Gavin is now changing tack ahead of a return to the Australian V8 Supercars grid for the three-part PIRTEK Enduro Cup.
The Northamptonshire resident has signed to race the Repair Management Australia Holden VF Commodore alongside Nick Percat in the Wilson Security Sandown 500 (11-13 September), Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 (8-11 October) and Gold Coast 600 (23-25 October).
Percat and Gavin raced together in last year’s PIRTEK Enduro Cup and, having finished eighth in the final points classification and claimed third in Australia’s great race, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on the legendary Mount Panorama circuit, there are high hopes for the forthcoming 2015 campaign.
“I’m already getting my head into gear for my return to Australian V8 Supercars and the Sandown 500, as it requires a completely different approach to what I’m used to,” said Gavin. “The Holden is a completely different beast and you need a very different driving style. I’m going from a car with a paddle shift, traction control, pretty good aero and tyre, to a car with a sequential manual gearbox, relatively little downforce and slightly more power. I’m in the process of switching to V8 Supercar mode and I’ll be trying to use muscle memory from Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast last year to rediscover that rhythm I found.”