Four time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Oliver Gavin shares his thoughts on the popularity of the Gran Turismo (Grand Touring) known worldwide with the initials GT. Gavin notched many GT race victories at a variety of tracks.
The Corvette driver has three American Le Mans championships; his most current one was this year with Tommy Milner in the C6 ZR1. The two wrapped up the crown before the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta.
Despite his busy schedule leading up to the season finale this Saturday, Gavin gave our readers his thoughts.
People can relate to the class and the car the most out of all the classes
Why do you think GT racing has such appeal to fans?
I think it’s popular due to the fact that the cars are now pretty well balanced performance wise. The racing can be very close and tight between the cars because of this and the way they’re laid out, and the fans and manufacturers are engaged by them as they relate so clearly to what’s made for the road. Whether that’s a Corvette, an Aston Martin, Ferrari or Porsche – it’s clear to everyone that car is what it is – it’s not a hybrid or silhouette, it’s a proper Corvette or whatever other make. I think that’s why people are drawn into it.
From a Corvette point of view, the fans we have at the race track and the Corvette corrals bring huge numbers of owners and enthusiasts. We usually have the biggest autograph lines, are we’re constantly bumping into people all around the track who have Corvette shirts on; you can clearly see we have the biggest fan base and following of any team at any of the ALMS races.
People can relate to the class and the car the most out of all the classes and that’s an international thing, not just an ALMS feature, it’s around the globe. I’m using the Corvette as an example but you can substitute the make with any other GT car, but whether it’s the man on the street who can just about afford a Corvette or whether it’s the executive who is going off and buying himself the ZR1, those people want to see ‘their’ car racing on the track.
Or, if they’ve got enough money, they want to go off and buy one they can race themselves, a racing version of their road car. They then want to be able to go back to the guys they work with and say I’ve been racing with this and had success etc. I think this is where the GT3 category in Europe has taken off and grown over the last few years because the very wealthy and successful executives and businessman have invested some of their money into one of these high end GT3 cars and have gone off and raced it, quite competitively in many cases because of some of the features on those cars such as ABS, traction control, paddle shift or stability control. They’ve managed to develop those GT3 cars so it’s quite easy for those guys to drive them and that’s been a key to their success.
It looks like Corvette, Chevrolet and GM all want to be a big part of that and certainly the bit in the US is going to be very important. It’s going to be shaped a great deal by what Chevrolet does as they’re the biggest manufacturers in both Grand Am and the ALMS as they current stand. A lot of people are going to lose out, you can’t get away from that, and some people are going to feel pretty hard done by but there will be others who will win a lot from it. Whenever something is changed there’s always going to be winners and losers.