THE POWER OF THREE
It's not quite sunk in yet for Oliver Gavin. The remarkable feat achieved by he and his team mates Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen of winning three consecutive GT1 victories at Le Mans. The three fingers held up by each driver on the podium should perhaps be read not only as three victories, but also recognition of the three drivers and the part they each played in this winning team.
It was, as seen in other reports, an incredible battle from flag to flag between the Velocity yellow Corvette C6.Rs and the green Aston Martin DBR9s and one in which the most vital lesson of racing was reinforced again and again - never give up.
Olly takes up the story of his race. "First of all, winning the class for three years in a row is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved and wonderful for Olivier, Jan and me. To win again after the last two years was something we'd all hoped to be able to achieve. We were as prepared as we possibly could be, but Le Mans is such a battle and trial that you never want to say "we can" or "we will" because you just don't know what's around the corner.
"One of those 'round-the-corner' incidents was in the early hours of Sunday morning when I had a brush with an LMP car. Everything was going well till two laps from the end of my stint. I didn't know there was an LMP car behind me on the pit straight so, when I turned into the Dunlop chicane, I all of a sudden heard a big bang and then was in the gravel. I pointed the car in the direction of the track as well as I could and, miraculously, I got out of the gravel without much delay. I did have a puncture though, so did a slow lap and came in.
"In the Corvette we have a rear-view camera rather than a rear-view mirror in the cockpit, but the TV screen in the cockpit had come off, so you sort of had to hold it to get a look at what was coming behind. As a result you hardly looked in your rear view mirrors on the doors. It's a real shame because everything was going very well but luckily the damage wasn't too severe.
"We had some bodywork damage, the wheel arch was pushed into the tyre (which caused the puncture), and knocked the toes out on the right rear quarter of the car. We had to drive round that problem for the rest of the race and the car was never as fast on the straight after the contact.
"In fact, during the night we didn't seem to be able to run at the same pace as the Astons. Their car works very well during the night, as we also saw at Le Mans last year and Petit Le Mans, and we lost 2-3 minutes which was a bit worrying. It's something we'll be working on for next year. Once daylight came we seemed to be as quick as the green cars again and that was exactly the encouragement we needed to keep us going. It shows the spirit of the team and amongst the drivers that no one ever gave up, and no one ever thought we can't win the race. We kept to our plan and knew that things could happen around the 20-21 hour mark - and they did!
"Without the loss of time and the drop off in speed during the night, I really think we would have caught the 009 car anyway and passed them for the lead on outright speed rather than because they ran into difficulties.
"I got out of car at 0630 on Sunday, after a two hour stint, feeling a bit dehydrated and not exactly tip top. Our team therapist, Alison, suggested an i/v of saline solution to re-hydrate me and sent the doctor to look at me. I'm a bit of a wuss about needles but Greg, who is the official IMSA doctor, got his very efficient and nice nurse along to fix it all up and, with my wife Helen and baby Fergus there to take my mind off it, I felt a great deal better with an additional two litres of fluid inside me.
"I was still quite drained by the end of the race and was randomly picked by the ACO to do a doping test at the end of the race, along with one driver from each of the class-winning cars in LMP1, LMP2 and GT2. I wasn't the only one drinking litres and litres of water in an effort to produce a sample after the race! In fact, I was gone so long that Helen thought I'd fallen asleep somewhere and had sent out search parties.
"Apart from the contact and puncture I had no other worries about the car at all during the race. Olivier, who got in straight after the repairs, had a difficult stint for a variety of reasons but, other than that one time, he was on top form all weekend. He's very good at seeing the bigger picture in these endurance races and realised that lots of things could yet happen and reminded us all that we shouldn't be prepared to risk the car unnecessarily. Jan drove exceptionally well whenever he was behind the wheel, very fast and reliable, and between us we all did exactly what was asked of us. We never gave up, we pushed as hard as we could for as long as we could, and it all came to us in the end. Even better than that, I won £150 from George Howard-Chappell at Aston Martin Racing. To win again at Le Mans is a fantastic result; to win another bet with him was the icing on the cake!"