Fast Friends: Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta Corvette Racing's "Two Ollies" Aim for ALMS Championship in Season Finale MONTEREY, Calif. - Two years ago, they were strangers. Today Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta are the best of friends - and...
Fast Friends: Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta
Corvette Racing's "Two Ollies" Aim for ALMS Championship in Season Finale
MONTEREY, Calif. - Two years ago, they were strangers. Today Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta are the best of friends - and potential American Le Mans Series champions.
They come from different worlds. Gavin, 33, is a fair-haired Englishman, living in a restored Tudor-style home in a picturesque village northwest of London. Beretta, 35, is a swarthy Monegasque who lives alongside the sun-drenched Mediterranean in an apartment in Monte Carlo. For years they orbited in similar motorsports circles, but it was Corvette Racing that brought them together. Since the "two Ollies" forged their partnership in 2004, they have achieved sensational results.
Eleven times they've stood together in the winner's circle, including six victories in their last seven starts. Teamed with Jan Magnussen for long-distance events, they've scored back-to-back wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans. Beretta is now second on the list of all-time ALMS winners with 23 career victories, and he has a series-leading 17 poles on his resume. Gavin has won 14 ALMS races in his career and he has claimed the fastest qualifier honors 11 times.
Gavin and Beretta are poised to achieve their greatest feat together at the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 15. They go into the season finale of the 10-race ALMS with a 15-point lead in the GT1 drivers championship over their Corvette Racing teammates Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows. With 23 points on the line in the four-hour contest, the title race is still wide open - but Gavin and Beretta are in the driver's seat.
The two drivers have developed a friendship that's as fast as their race car.
"The first time I talked with Olly was at Sears Point in 2003," Beretta recalled. "I knew his name and what he had done, but I'd never had the opportunity to race with him. We had a five-minute chat, and I got a good feeling.
"When I came to Corvette Racing in 2004 and we had our first meeting in Sebring, he was very helpful," Beretta continued. "He told me everything about what I had to do to drive the Corvette quickly. Olly is a very clever racer, fast and smart. That combination makes a good race car driver. This is the second year we have raced together. The more we race, the better we work together."
Gavin also got through the getting-to-know-you phase quickly with his new teammate.
"We've become good friends, and we talk about our interests outside of racing," said the Briton. "He is the best teammate I've had in terms of being able to get on with him. I understand what he wants in the race car and have complete trust in him. When I come into the pits and hand the car over to Olivier, I have every confidence that he'll do a brilliant job."
Gavin, Beretta and Magnussen share a common background in Europe's fiercely competitive open-wheel classes. Their similar experiences provide a foundation for their understanding of each other.
"The three of us have a similar driving style, and that may be because we've all driven single-seaters in Europe," Gavin suggested. "We've driven Formula 1 cars, we've raced in Formula 3000 or Formula 3, so we know what that type of car feels like. I think that's the way that we go about setting up the Corvette C6.R. If one of us had come from driving saloons or sprint cars, he would have a very different way of interpreting how the car should go around the track. We all come at it from the same direction, and that helps us to come up with a car that is capable of winning."
"The important thing is that we want the same thing in the car, and this makes life easy for the engineers," Beretta noted. "If you have one driver who likes chicken and another who likes fish, it can be a problem."
The two men's similar tastes in car setup is a boon for Corvette Racing's engineering team. With limited track time available during a race weekend, the crew can optimize the No. 4 Corvette C6.R quickly to suit the two Ollies' driving style.
"Oliver and Olivier may focus on different aspects of the track, but their feedback almost always agrees," commented Doug Louth, Corvette Racing engineering manager. "Most of the time they're in perfect harmony. That makes it easier for the team to do development work quickly. They usually end up liking a similar setup, so what works for one also works well for the other."
Endurance racing is an art form, one that must be learned through discipline and patience. Unlike the cutthroat world of single-seat racing where a teammate is often a driver's chief rival, a teammate is a comrade in endurance racing. Gavin and Beretta understand this distinction, and it's a key element in their mutual success.
"Ego is good to have because it gives you the push to improve yourself, but when you leave the hotel in the morning to go to the track you must think about the entire situation," Beretta offered. "You must share the car with other drivers, so you focus on what has to be done to have the best situation for everyone. It is very important to have this mentality. Doug Fehan (Corvette Racing program manager) knows racing very well, and he makes sure that everyone is right in the brain before they go into the car.
"When you race for long distances, you have to analyze and think," he explained. "If you see the competition has a problem, you don't need to overdrive the car."
Gavin agreed: "We understand that we need to push hard but not use up the car so that the next guy struggles with what's left. Every race car driver wants to be the fast guy, but we know that we must work as a team. If we don't work as a team, we're not going to win the race.
"That's one of the things that Olivier has understood for many years," Gavin noted, "and he's been teaching me that through the last two seasons. That's one of the reasons why he's been such a good teammate."
Beretta sees parallels between endurance racing and other sports.
"Racing is a team effort, so everyone must help each other," he declared. "It is like a European soccer game: You can have a team of superstars, but if they don't pass the ball, they will never win."
Gavin and Beretta, the odd couple of Corvette Racing, have learned how to win. On Oct. 15, that knowledge could deliver a championship.
The Monterey Sports Car Championships, the final round of the 10-race 2005 American Le Mans Series, is scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m. PDT on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The race will be televised on SPEED Channel on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 1 p.m. EDT.