Although he wasn’t able to secure a second straight podium finish at Mount Panorama, Englishman Oliver Gavin still thoroughly enjoyed his return to the circuit for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour this weekend.
The Corvette Racing factory ace in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship shared a Holden VF Commodore at last October’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and finished third, co-driving with Nick Percat.
Gavin was back to conquer the 12-hour race this year with the Skwirk Audi team, co-driving with with Rod Salmon and Nathan Antunes in the GT3 Am class No. 5 Audi R8 LMS ultra.
The car ended only 23rd on the grid after poor luck and timing resigned the car down much further than it should have been, compared to practice pace.
While the qualifying was a frustration, it was still fortunate for the Skwirk team to even be able to make the grid.
Gavin had narrowly avoided the contact between the No. 99 Craft-Bamboo Racing Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 and defending race winners Maranello Motorsport with its No. 88 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
“There was an Aston who wanted to go across every part of the track,” Gavin told Sportscar365. “I got ahead of him out of the Dipper, then Tony D’Alberto was beside him as he went by and tagged him hard into the wall. That could have been so easily us in the Skwirk car. Tony was massively unlucky.”
From the start, Gavin fought back with an impressive opening stint to take the car into the top 10 within the first hour and 25 minutes of the race.
“I don’t remember it being as dark as it was this year; that posed a big challenge,” Gavin said. “You get sort of used to driving at Sebring or Le Mans in the real darkness on the back of those tracks. So I was certainly was calling on a lot of that experience.
“It’s only for a very short window of the race, but for that opening 25 minutes or so it’s really bad. Everyone’s hustling and you want to try to make up the spots as best you can.
“After five laps, we came from 23rd to about eighth or ninth. It was such great fun. I was racing with some guys I haven’t raced in ages – I hadn’t raced Guy Smith for many years for instance. He was there in the Bentley. We had a good dice.”
Gavin handed to Salmon, who ran an impressive two and a half hour stint, before Antunes took over. Unfortunately the race ended for the team in the fifth hour after 103 laps, with Antunes caught out in traffic and sliding onto the marbles going into the Cutting. Significant right rear damage was incurred on the car.
“I really felt for him; he was devastated,” Gavin said. “It was a great opportunity to showcase his talent on a world stage. But he’ll get other opportunities. He’s a good lad, and he’ll get his moment.”
With this race now in the bag, Gavin took the opportunity to compare and contrast the styles of the two races.
“Both events are hugely challenging,” Gavin said. “The V8 race – with the nature of the V8 car racing on the mountain – you have to be on top of your game. It’s such a huge event. The pressure is intense as well to perform.
“The Bathurst 12 Hour, the pressure is still there, but the cars you’re racing are very different in performance at different parts of the track. The Mercedes and Bentleys are fast on the straights, slower in the corners… the Ferrari is good all around… the Nissan is really fast on the straight.
“But then you put into the mix every other class out there, the Fords, the Mazdas, the other Porsches, you’re directly dealing with cars who are much slower over other parts. In V8s, everyone is pretty much the same speed, same braking point.
“In some ways, you can race closer in the V8 because you’re closer and you know the pattern. Whereas in the 12-hour, you’re just guessing a lot of the time, and you’re guessing about where people will go.”