Following Audi’s departure from LMP1 at the end of 2016, several of its factory drivers have jumped ship to other manufacturers, and Oliver Jarvis is the latest to do so, with Tuesday’s announcement he will be moving to Bentley.
The 33-year-old, who has been with Audi for nine years racing in LMP1, DTM and GT3, is set for his return to the Blancpain GT Series in a Bentley Continental GT3 alongside fellow Brits Guy Smith and Steven Kane.
“I’m just really pleased to finally announce it, if I’m honest,” he told Sportscar365. “As everyone knows, Audi made a shock withdrawal at the end of last year. For myself, it was a case of looking around and just seeing what was out there and what was available.
“I approached Bentley to discuss what options there were with them, and after speaking with Brian Gush, I was just convinced that it’s a really solid program, and they’re very ambitious moving forward. I felt for me it was a perfect fit.
“[I’ve been at] a training fitness camp [this week] and team-bonding session with the team, so we’ve spent a couple of days [together].
“Guy, and Steven, I know well, and we seem to be getting on really well. Also, having two Brits as teammates makes life extremely easy, so we can get together and train. From that side of things, I’m really confident that we’ll gel really quickly.”
Jarvis says he knows the transition from prototypes to GTs isn’t going to be easy after so long in the Audi R18, but it’s a challenge he’s willing to take ahead of his first race in next month’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
“I’ve been in the LMPs recently and when Audi did withdraw, I straight away looked at GT, because it’s just gone from strength to strength recently,” he said.
“I know Blancpain, and I did the FIA GT1 World Championship, so I do know the car, but at the same time I’m under no illusion that it’s such an incredibly strong championship.
“The competition level has just increased from year to year. It’s not going to be easy, especially for myself jumping in with basically no testing and going straight into Bathurst, it’s going to be extremely tough, but I just can’t wait.
“Bathurst has been on my bucket list for many, many years.”
Fortunately, he is confident that the strength of his co-drivers will help him to fit in at the new team.
“They’re really cool guys, and they seem really helpful and happy to have me in the team,” he said.
“They just want to go out and win, and I think from my experience, they’ve shown all the characteristics you need to make a strong team.
“They’re very aware what it takes in endurance racing and that you need to work together. For us, I’d like to think we can hit the ground running, straight away, and I feel like we’ve already bonded.
“It’s just a case of getting in the car and figuring out how to work together around the race weekend.”
In spite of all this, Jarvis does admit that he is going to miss competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, especially after a strong performance in 2016 that included wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Bahrain.
“It’s been a huge part of my life,” he said. “I have made a lot of friends in the championship, and I’ve seen it grow as well.
“But at the same time, I’m really looking forward to being part of Blancpain again.
“I’d like to think at some point I’d like to return to the WEC, whether it just be for Le Mans, or even more races. I don’t feel like I’ve left it completely.
“Even if I’m not competing, I’ll be back at least to come watch and support fellow drivers and friends.”
However, he isn’t ruling out a return to Le Mans in 2017, if the right ride comes along.
“I’m still looking if there are any potential opportunities in LMP2 for Le Mans, and only do it if it’s with the right team,” he said.
“I am talking to a few people, but we’ll have to wait and see. It all depends on them finding the funding and putting together a good program.
“Having been in the LMP1 with Audi, I wouldn’t want to go there and not have the opportunity to fight at the front.”