After coming up short in recent years, Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin is confident they have the right ingredients in place to return to the top step of the podium in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The veteran Englishman, whose been part of four of Corvette’s seven class victories in the French endurance classic, feels returning to Le Mans with the Corvette C7.R for the second time around will pay dividends.
“It’s a nice thing to be able to go back and do the second year with the car,” Gavin told Sportscar365. “The homologation and everything has been frozen across all of the cars.
“We know where our strengths and some of our weaknesses were from last year and we’ve been able to fine tune some of that.”
Gavin and co-drivers Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor, as well as the entire Pratt & Miller squad are coming off a productive Le Mans Test Day, where Gavin recorded the second quickest time in the GTE-Pro class, although in mixed conditions.
Prior to arriving in France, the team spent two days at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Ky., a circuit modeled after a number of corners of Circuit de la Sarthe, where Gavin felt some big gains were made in making further refinements to the car.
“We’ve been able to look at our setups and see where we could run with our aero,” he said. “That was one of the key things we worked on at NCM, was to try to make the car a little bit more comfortable on the low downforce setup. That translated across to the test day.
“When you turn up with a new car, to a track like Le Mans for the first time, you’ve done work on the wind tunnel, you’ve done work aero testing and work at a test track. You try and prepare as much as you can but you really only know until you get there.
“We missed that a little bit on our car at Le Mans last year. Our car wasn’t particularly comfortable to drive. But we’ve got a good idea what it was.
“The No. 63 car managed to do better and they were a little bit quicker and they were a little bit more comfortable in the race.”
For Gavin, whose last Le Mans class victory came in 2006, still in the GT1 era, he’s hungrier than ever to return to the podium this year.
“On a personal level, Le Mans over the last six or seven years has not been particularly kind to me after four or five years of winning or standing on the podium,” he said. “It all seemed like almost nothing could go wrong.
“Then I’ve really seen the flip side of what could happen at Le Mans, with many things not going our way, whether it be a mechanical issue or somebody running into you or conditions, or something in the pit stop. I’ve seen every single outcome, I think.”
While the sister No. 63 car, driven by Taylor, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia collected a runner-up finish last year and repeated with its first 24-hour race win at Daytona earlier this year, the speed and reliability is there.
All Corvette needs is luck, which is something that hasn’t necessarily come their way lately in France.
“It would be an amazing achievement if we could stand on the top step of the podium again,” Gavin said. “But saying all of that, there’s so many things you have to go through to get to that point.
“Whether it’s the practice and qualifying sessions, the start of the race and how it unfolds and develops. You go through five or six stages through the race…
“There’s so many things that can go right and go wrong, that there’s nothing you can take for granted.
“We’re ready for the challenge of the race and let’s see what it brings.”