"I SAY, OLD CHAP, FANCY A SPIN IN THE E-TYPE?"
Northamptonshire's Oliver Gavin has been a GM Corvette driver for the past nine seasons and rarely has an opportunity, or time, to drive cars produced by other manufacturers. The one glorious exception in his, and many other professional drivers' schedules, is Goodwood. The championship-winning sports car driver last year made his debut at the Goodwood Revival meeting with outstanding results, winning the St Mary's Trophy in a pre-1966 Mini Cooper S with the car's entrant, Nick Swift.
This weekend he will once again be demonstrating his considerable talents in two different cars. In the RAC TT Celebration race, the main event on Sunday afternoon, he will be driving a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Roadster (chassis 20), prepared by historic racing specialist, Martin Stretton, which has previously participated in five Goodwood meetings. Oliver will be partnering the car's owner, Mark Clubb, in the one-hour, two-driver challenge for closed-cockpit GT cars (1960-1964), alongside some of the most famous names in motor sport in around £100million of exotic cars. Models such as AC Cobra, Ferrari 250 GTO, Lightweight E-Types and Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagatos will be lining up for a visual and audible feast of racing.
While last year's St Mary's Trophy was a single-make event in celebration of the Mini, this year the best-loved saloon cars of the 1950s return to Goodwood to provide some thrilling action. The St Mary's Trophy is a two-part race, with celebrity drivers taking the wheel on Saturday, followed by the owner-drivers on Sunday, and the result declared on aggregate. Former Le Mans winner, Gavin, will be partnering Des Smail in a 1959 Austin A40 on behalf of the car's owner, Andrew Higginson. The formidable entry list includes Martin Brundle, Derek Bell, Dickie Attwood, Tom Kristensen, and Nic Minassian.
Oliver can't wait for the action to begin, having just had a brief test in the car. "I've been up to Mallory Park to give the E-Type a try and it was great fun. I got a lot more tuned in and feel pretty at home in it now. It's amazing how much the car moves around and how much oversteer you can get. In fact, I discovered that you need the oversteer to get a time out of the car and it requires a very different driving style to anything I've driven lately.
"You have to do all your braking in a straight line then turn the car into the corner which is very different to the modern way of driving where you have to take slick tyres and stiff chassis into account. I'm now beginning to understand how it all moves together; it's a very different beast and fascinating. It's great to work with Martin Stretton, who's very knowledgeable on all aspects of historic racing and who was able to give me some very valuable guidance.
"I don't think we'll have a car to race at the front of the TT race, as we've got a considerable weight disadvantage compared to the Lightweight E-Type models, for example, but we'll be in the mix and part of the fun and that's what the Goodwood Revival is all about. I'll also be driving the Austin A40 with Des Smail and looking forward to competing again in the St Mary's Trophy which I was lucky enough to win last year in the Mini. I hope to be able to repeat the same result with Des in the A40."