Olly returned to the top step of the GT podium at Long Beach today after a fantastic ALMS race through the concrete canyons of the 1.96 mile California temporary street course. He and Tommy Milner were masterful in their No. 4 Corvette C6.R to take the win and finish 6th overall, with the British driver claiming a new race lap record in the process.
The result proves beyond doubt that Olly is the Long Beach maestro as he has won the GT1/GT class of the American Le Mans Series here three times in six visits, and has only once not been on the podium.
With Friday’s practice and qualifying being a washout due to unseasonable rain – the latter officially cancelled due to the amount of standing water on the track – the race grid was set on championship positions after the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Olly and Tommy started third behind the Dirk Muller/Joey Hand BMW and Jan and Antonio in the No. 3 Corvette and, for many in the 33-strong field it was the first dry laps they’d turned all weekend.
“The win is very, very satisfying,” said a beaming Olly. “It all just went our way today. Sometimes you have to capitalise on others’ misfortunes, just as they would if the tables were turned, and today was one of those days for us. It was Tommy’s first ALMS win and first with Corvette Racing, so I’m really pleased for him as he didn’t put a foot wrong at the start, and avoided all the bumping and banging of the first few laps. He had to use his tyres pretty hard at times to stay ahead of the chasing pack, but gave me some great advice for my stint and that definitely made the difference.”
A well-timed caution for the whole field came at 55 minutes into the two-hour race, and from then on it was a question of controlling the race, although it wasn’t always easy. “I passed Scott Sharp’s Ferrari to get second with 50 minutes to go and then needed to pick off Dirk Muller’s BMW, which was blocking pretty aggressively. I saw a chance at Turn 9 and stuffed it up the inside of the corner. For a split second I thought, “Uh oh, not sure we’re going to make this”, but the car was really good and planted under me so I was able to make the pass stick and pulled away. I knew that as long as I managed the tyres and was smart I had it covered.
“I eked out a lead, but I had in my mind that we might get a caution at any time and might need to have a bit in reserve with the tyres. There was crazy traffic towards the end, and lots of people were struggling with lack of grip. I had the team going at one point as the lead went from 13s down to 5s over the last 5 or 6 laps but I was in control and am delighted for the whole team with the result!”
In a week’s time Olly will be taking to the streets again, but this time without the aid of his Corvette. He will be running in the 2012 Virgin London Marathon with the aim of beating his 2010 time of 2 hours 54 minutes and 20 seconds. With many Olympic hopefuls heading the Elite section of the 35,000 entrants, Olly is hoping that a new training programme he’s followed, together with their fast pace, will give him the impetus needed to set a new personal best record and raise awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.