Oliver Gavin's reflections on missing out on a 4th consecutive Le Mans
How much can a driver do from the side of the track, and what to do when it all goes wrong?
Well, as you saw from the last posting on my website at 5.30pm, it all went a bit quiet for the #64 car on Saturday evening. It was a very strange feeling for us as, of all the years that Corvette has entered Le Mans, we have never had a failure like this before and the team has never retired a car.
From my point of view, of the seven years I've entered Le Mans I've finished all except this one, and all on the podium. To be out so early was extremely disappointing. It was a completely new experience for me to be at the race track with no racing to do, and I didn't quite know what to do with myself.
When the car actually failed at 4.40 pm, I was coming down into Indianapolis and the car coasted all the way through there and on to Arnage. It appears there is a fault with an electrical system which then caused the prop shaft to fail.
I pulled over at a marshal's post, which luckily was manned fully by British marshals, which was very helpful as it meant I could easily communicate with them. They were all very kind too. I tried for 45 minutes to an hour to diagnose the problem and fix the car, speaking on the radio with Ray Gongla, the crew chief on my car, who was very calm and clear throughout. No one was panicking although it seems that everyone feared the worst. Helen told me afterwards that the whole Corvette Racing team had reacted brilliantly and pooled all their thoughts and input, going through every possibility in order to try and get the car back. They even took pictures of the prop shaft to send to me on the mobile phone which was in the car.
I learnt a lot more in that time about how to take the car to bits, but unfortunately the only way to fix it was to put in a new prop shaft there and then and it's illegal for the team to pass any parts or bits to me at the side of the track. It wasn't really a possibility as I didn't have all the tools with me I would have needed to get everything out and off the car, including the gearbox, and it would have been a mammoth effort. If I had have managed to get the car back to the pits, it would have taken about 30-45 minutes to fix so I guess our chances for success would have been remote anyway.
It's a real, real shame after such a huge build up. Le Mans was the focus of our whole season, more so than in any other year I have been with Corvette Racing. It was extremely disappointing for all of us involved, and even for our rivals at Aston Martin. I went to see them on Sunday and they were sad for us because they had wanted to beat our car, as the one which has beaten them for the last three years. There's a very healthy rivalry and respect between the two teams, and we both realised that we need one another to keep it working. Fortunately the #63 car was really strong and pushed them the whole way, so at least we had plenty to plenty to cheer about all through Sunday.
As I was no longer needed behind the wheel, I went onto Radio Le Mans, Motors TV and SPEED TV, and then went off to meet the family who were just coming off the big wheel. They'd really enjoyed it but it's crazy down there, like a music festival, with people of all shapes and sizes everywhere. A real mix of humanity! I'm glad I saw it, but I'd still have preferred to be driving and that's what we'll all be looking forward to next time. We lost out on another win this time, but it's not something we want to happen again!