After three years of being part of Audi’s Le Mans-only program, Oliver Jarvis has landed an opportunity of a lifetime, not only in stepping up to a season-long seat in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but also taking the place of a Le Mans legend.
Jarvis was confirmed Wednesday as the new full-time driver for the German manufacturer’s second R18 e-tron quattro, succeeding nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, who retired following last month’s season-ending Six Hours of Sao Paulo.
“Ever since I stepped foot in the LMP1 car, the dream has been to be in the position I am now. To also be fighting for a World Championship, that’s something extremely special,” Jarvis told Sportscar365.
“The fact that I’m replacing Tom Kristensen, as my new teammate put it this morning, ‘You are replacing the most successful sports car driver in the world… ever.’
“There’s some shoes to fill, and some that nobody can actually can fill. All I hope is that I can prove that they made the right decision by giving me the promotion and that I can do the seat justice.”
For Jarvis, it marks his biggest opportunity yet in the sports car racing world.
The 30-year-old Englishman made his factory Audi LMP1 debut in 2012, finishing on the podium at Le Mans, while backing it up with another third place overall result one year later.
With an overall win at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and a GT class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona also to his credit, Jarvis has quietly made a name for himself within the Audi camp in recent years.
He’s now looking to take it one step further in 2015 in the automaker’s flagship factory program, but is fully aware of the challenges ahead.
“It doesn’t matter who you replace or who your teammates are, there’s always going to be pressure when you’re racing at this level,” Jarvis said. “It’s a serious factory effort and Audi races to win.
“You put pressure on yourself and a lot of pressure comes from within. For me it’s going to be important that I take this opportunity and show what I can do and make the most of it.
“I’ve got a lot to learn but I’ve got some fantastic teammates. I can also take all of the experience from Tom and Allan [McNish], who will be there to support me, and hopefully I can go from there and do a good job and we can have some success as a team.”
Jarvis is coming off a season in Super GT, which he feels will help him in his transition to the FIA WEC full-time in more ways than one, despite the obvious difference in machinery.
“The thing that most people don’t realize is that how competitive [Super GT] really is,” he said. “There’s some world class drivers in there and it’s one of the most competitive championships I’ve ever driven.
“You’re also in traffic constantly, and from that side, I’ve learned a great deal. Every lap you have to push. This is something that’s going to help me when it comes to the full WEC season.”
With Toyota claiming the World Championship and Porsche taking its maiden victory in Sao Paulo last month, Audi has arguably been on the back foot since its 13th Le Mans victory in June.
However, with significant off-season developments to the R18 e-tron quattros planned, Jarvis is hopeful of being able to take the fight to LMP1 rivals next year.
“It’s going to be a huge effort over the winter,” Jarvis said. “Audi never stands still but nor do our competitors.
“Not only do we have to make up the deficit that it seems we’ve had towards the end of this year but we’ve also got to make even bigger gains because that’s exactly what our competition is going to do.
“We’re very aware and are quite vocal about the fact that we think the rules are against us. But we’re not lying down and accepting that. We’re going to work as hard as physically possible over the winter and enter 2015 and give it our all.”
Despite the hard work that’s ahead, Jarvis is relishing his new era at Audi, as arguably the greatest sports car racing driver of this generation bows out.
“I’m so happy that [Tom] got to retire while still at the top,” Jarvis said. “He chose the right time. I also have to say a little thank you because he knows how much it means for me to step up and to be given the opportunity.
“I saw him earlier today and he gave me a little smile and the smile said it all. He knew exactly how important it was to me and how much of a great opportunity it is for myself.”