Olly Gavin on Daytona 24 Hour win

2nd February 2016

Just after 2.40pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday January 31st the Chevrolet Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler crossed the Daytona 24 Hours finish line 0.034 seconds ahead of the sister car of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller to win the GTLM class. It was the closest class finish in the race’s history and here Gavin, who was behind the wheel of the winner in the closing stages, gives his blow-by-blow account of what it as like.

That was the most intense finish to a race I have ever experienced…

As always in a 24-hour race there are many ups and downs and, regardless of which team you’re driving for or which car you’re driving, you could write a book about the things that happen. Suffice to say, we’d had some penalties and I rejoined in fifth for the final stint of the race. I knew at that point that it was going to be a tall order to get back into the lead.

With our strategy and with some good driving I managed to get us back to the point where we were battling with the Porsche of Earl Bamber. It was really a straight fight between Earl and I, but we knew Antonio was going to be making a late pit stop and he’d be joining us for the last 20 minutes.

I thought that the last 20 minutes was going to be full on, but I never thought it was going to be as crazy as it was. Once I had managed to get past Earl I stretched out a bit of a lead, but then Antonio was coming on with fresh tyres and he really had the bit between his teeth. He was doing fastest lap after fastest lap...

This is at the end of a 24-hour race when everyone is just exhausted. You’re struggling to think straight and you’re right on the limit of what you can do. I was calling on every last bit of experience from my career and from all those times I’ve raced there for Corvette. I was thinking ‘I’m really going to have to bring out everything here to stop this guy from passing me’.

I’ve known Antonio for many years – we’ve trained together, we’ve done loads of running, and we know each other pretty well. I knew that he’d catch me and that he’d have an initial attempt to pass me. Then, if that didn’t work, he’d sit there for a couple of laps – I was aware he had seven or eight laps to pass me – and I knew he’d then try and think of the best way to get past. He’s a smart, intelligent guy; he sits there calculating in his mind how he’s going to do it. Once he decides he’ll just execute. He’s a bit of an assassin, he just gets it done.

From the Archive: Lunch with...Oliver Gavin (February 2013).

As we were coming into the tri-oval with three minutes to go, he tried to pass me round the outside of Turn 1. I had an idea about what he was going to try and do and I stuck to the inside. He left his braking a bit late and got completely sideways, completely on the lock stops and at this point I’m thinking ‘He’s sliding wide! He’s sliding wide! I’ve just got to make sure that I keep my car to the inside and try and wind as much speed off as I possibly can before the apex and beat him on the run off from the corner.’

All this time we’re being told that we can race and battle for the win, but we had to do it cleanly and fairly. We were so close to touching, but we never did. I snuck by him through Turn 2 and down into Turn 3. I think with him sliding wide into Turn 1 he got some debris on his tyres and then spent the next two laps trying to clean that off. It just won me enough time to sneak over the line at the finish.

As I was coming to the line it was like it was going away from me; the line was just stretching away! He was coming so quickly and fortunately it came just in time. A few metres later and the sister car would have won. What a nail biter.

Over the last few years the team has always said to us ‘We want you to race hard and fair, but you cannot risk the result’. This was a little extreme, though. It was the most pressurised situation the team has ever been under. We had board members from GM there in the pit box and they said ‘we want them to race’.

The feedback from the media has been fantastic. The fact that we were allowed to race, no holds barred, clean and fair. Neither one of us wanted to give up the win, the Rolex. It’s funny because just before I got in the car I just happened to come across a tweet – I can’t even remember who it was from – saying ‘winning is everything, second place is losing’. That’s all I could think of during those last 10 laps: ‘Second is losing! I don’t want to lose.’

I would say that was the most intense final 10 laps I have ever done whilst I’ve been behind the wheel. I have been in some amazing races where remarkable things have happened, but I have never been behind the wheel for a finish like that.

I feel that I brought the car home and it’s always nice to be the person in the car at the end to get it over the line. I felt that I had a good race yesterday and always got the car back in contention or, if we had a problem, I got the car back in the lead or near the front. I felt I made the difference yesterday, which is one of the things you want to do as a driver. It’s a team effort, but it’s always good to be happy with your efforts.

That win is up there with the best I have ever had.

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