Opinion

Racing lines: So long, Oliver “Captain Corvette” Gavin

Rivals but friends

Gavin’s Corvette highlights include the hat-trick of Le Mans GT wins he shared with Jan Magnussen and Olivier Beretta from 2004 to 2006 against arch-foe Prodrive, which was just beginning its long-running Aston Martin campaign. As a Brit, the rivalry held particular juice for Gavin, who is now great friends with its architect, George Howard-Chappell, and lead driver Darren Turner. “It was unbelievable racing and a great part of my career,” he says. “Ferociously competitive, but we look back on it very fondly.”

Daytona in 2016 also stands out, following a final 40-minute duel with teammate Antonio García that ended in the race’s closest ever finish: just 0.034sec separated the two C7.Rs after 24 hours of action.

“That was intense, with so much on the line, because our pit box was full of GM management,” says Gavin. “GM president Mark Reuss was there, and he gave us permission to race; he’s a proper racer and trusted us fully. It was an amazing moment where you realise it’s all on you. There’s responsibility here to race hard and win for yourself, but if you make a mistake…

“It was so close to the end. Antonio and I have immense respect for one another; when he knew I was stopping, he was gracious enough to give me the picture of the finish – one he doesn’t like too much!”

‘Raw’ but awesome racing in America

After two decades, Gavin is well versed in US motorsport, but like all Europeans he recalls the culture shock of American tracks we would describe as hairy. “I’d say they’re just ‘real’,” he says. “There’s hardly a reference to track limits. Everybody knows the deal: if you go off, you’re either on the grass or in the wall. You come to understand where the limits are. Could the safety be better? Yes, at a lot of tracks. But the cars have got safer. Sebring is hairy, but that’s part of its character, what makes it so amazing. Drivers from Europe, they finish their first practice session and are wide-eyed, but they’re also so enthused. It’s such a raw experience. Road America is the same, as are some of the street tracks, like Long Beach. In Baltimore, we had to go over a tramline on the back straight, which made the cars take off… but everybody just got on with it and made it work.”

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