ONE TO CHALK DOWN TO EXPERIENCE Oliver Gavin's reflections on Salt Lake City It was always going to be a challenge to compete at the brand new, purpose-built, 4.5 mile track at Salt Lake City, Utah, on several different levels. And so it ...
ONE TO CHALK DOWN TO EXPERIENCE
Oliver Gavin's reflections on Salt Lake City
It was always going to be a challenge to compete at the brand new, purpose-built, 4.5 mile track at Salt Lake City, Utah, on several different levels. And so it proved. Oliver and his team mate, Olivier Beretta, finished 4th in class which is a long way from where they'd have liked to have been. Olly explains what happened over his most recent racing weekend.
"The first challenge was the new track which wasn't to everyone's immediate liking, though a number of drivers I spoke to admitted that it would be a great circuit in the future. For the moment it was rather long and confusing, flat and featureless with few landmarks, and it took all of the practice sessions to get used to the layout.
"The second, and rather greater challenge for the Corvette Racing team, was the performance disadvantage accorded to the C6.Rs over our rivals, Aston Martin Racing. Additional weight, a smaller air restrictor and a lower fuel capacity were all factors in IMSA's (the ALMS technical organising association) bid to equalise the performance in the GT1 class. It was pretty obvious all weekend that Aston Martin was going to trounce us. Perhaps the pendulum has now swung too far one way?
"It was my turn to qualify at this fifth round of the Series, and unfortunately it didn't go well. We really struggled for power at this circuit, with the restrictions, the very high temperatures and the altitude. We decided to play a waiting game and didn't go out until half way through the session, so only had time then to do two flying laps, but unfortunately I got caught behind a GT2 car and lost any chance of going quicker than I did.
"Everyone was given two extra sets of tyres for this race weekend as temperatures were expected to be so high. This has happened only a few times before, and it's a safety measure more than anything. Track temperatures were over 130oF (and ambient was 100o), and unfortunately tyres tend to degrade quicker in these conditions.
"Right from the start of the race we got stuck behind an LMP car and lost about 10 seconds to Darren Turner (007). I kept battling and eventually passed Ron in the #3 car and slowly caught up with and past Stephane Sarrazin (009) when he made a mistake. That was really our only hope, to keep pressuring them and hope they'd make a mistake, as they were so much faster than us.
"We were fast at times but weren't able to sustain the speed, and it's hard to pass GT2 or LMP2 cars with no power. The Full Course Yellow period in the last 30 minutes of the race worked in Aston's favour this time, rather than ours, as the leader gained a lap on us all. We were in 3rd place when Olivier got back in to do the final few laps but our tyres were past their best and he had to let Johnny O pass him for the final podium place. We didn't realise it at the time, but we'd end up 4th anyway as we got a puncture one lap from the chequered flag so, having done more than 70% of the race, we came in and stopped in the pits.
"While I'm pleased for Darren who was really chuffed, it was a very disappointing and frustrating weekend for us. We're not really sure what will happen at Portland, though high temperatures are once again forecast. I'm sure our bosses at Corvette Racing will be lobbying hard for a change in the regulations but how soon that might be implemented remains to be seen. Portland has less corners and longer straights than Salt Lake City so, on paper, it already favours the cars with more power. We'll have to wait and see.
"In the meantime, we are all off to Detroit for our street parade and Le Mans celebrations. That will be good for everyone's spirits and remind us once again what a great, winning team we are."