Gambling on fuel in the Gold Coast 600



After the soaking wet Petit Le Mans at the start of October we had the long haul to Australia to make for the following weekend’s Bathurst 1000 with Lucas Dumbrel Motorsport and team-mate Nick Percat. I took the hop to LA to connect with my good buddy and pilot Ben Auld who would be flying me to Sydney on his 747. Well, actually it was Qantas’s 747 but you get what I mean! We had arranged the schedule so we could make the flight together and it was nice to know my friend was flying the plane.

Arriving in Australia after a day’s flying I was launched straight into an event with one of Nick’s sponsors, which would have been just fine had it not been for the World Cup rugby match that had just finished between England and Australia where we had been unceremoniously dumped out of our own World Cup. I settled into a few hours of good old-fashioned Pommy bashing. A great welcome, thanks guys! It was all in good spirit and I didn’t much care as I was relishing the thought of another assault on the mountain in a V8 Supercar.

Bathurst is a really special place, an iconic racetrack in an amazing setting. Like Le Mans it is a venue steeped in history and a place where legends are created so it ranks as one of the world’s great motor races for any driver. Last year I had the incredible experience of achieving a podium on my debut, the first non-Australian to do so for over 20 years. My hopes were high even if my expectations weren’t as while Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport do an amazing job, they are a smaller team with less resource than Walkinshaw Racing who ran me last year. A repeat podium would definitely be punching above our weight, but that’s certainly what we intended to try and do.

The LDM team has developed exponentially over this year and many of the ideas I had developed with the team from the last outing at Sandown in July had been put in place, which was encouraging. Our sister car had been fitted with some engine and exhaust upgrades that were being rushed to completion for our 222 car and would be fitted across the course of the weekend.

Through practice and qualifying Nick and I were steadily getting on the pace and with the upgrades now on our car had higher hopes, only to have a setback with the weather curtailing Nick’s qualifying efforts and leaving us to start the race in 19th spot.

Oliver Gavin’s profile on Motor Sport‘s Database

The race itself was a demonstration of how far we had come over the weekend, Nick’s starting stint took the car to 11th and I then pushed up to fifth place. However, all the good work was unpicked by a moment of petulance from Will Davison, who tried a move that was never on, tapping me into a spin and consequently the barriers at the ‘Elbow’ up on the mountain, which saw us drop to the back and lose three laps in the pits.

Undeterred we pushed on and brought the car home, ruing the opportunity for what was going to be a strong result.

After the race I took Will aside for an explanation, his version didn’t really cut with me and nor did it with the stewards who put the fault of the incident entirely at his door. That didn’t help us, but it was satisfying to know we had done no wrong.

It would be two weeks until the next event in the three-round PIRTEK Enduro Championship so I had time to train and help out Nick Percat with his house move to a lovely new place outside of Melbourne near the ocean. Nick had obviously copped my new property maintenance sponsor on our car and duly handed me the tools and made me the “hired hubby” for a few days, which I didn’t mind at all given the amazing hospitality he affords me on these trips down under.

In between the housework we managed to take on some great bicycle rides along the Beach Road with fellow V8 supercar driver Michael Caruso and Holden boss Simon Mcnamara. We actually ended up cycling with three-time Tour de France green jersey winner Robbie McEwen (below) who put us through our paces between Bathurst and the race on the Gold Coast.

Heading up to Surfers Paradise for the pair of beachside street races that form the Gold Coast 600 we were hoping to build on the positives from Bathurst and so it proved. After decent practice and qualifying it was clear that the LDM car was moving towards the pace of the front runners. Saturday’s first race saw the best result for the team so far with sixth overall. In Sunday’s second race we decided to go all out for a result and rolled the dice on strategy staying out and actually getting the car to the lead of the race gambling on a safety car to get the fuel mileage needed to stay at the front.

From the Archive: Lunch with Oliver Gavin (2013)

It was unfortunate that a cracked exhaust header didn’t help with our fuel economy and the safety car never materialized so our efforts were spoiled by a late pit-stop that dropped us down the field. After the race Nick had to be helped from the car which had become unbearably hot due to the heat generated by the exhaust gasses while Lucas Dumbrell was left to tell the press of his disappointment on what could have been a podium for the 222 car and the team.

It was a great experience once again to have the opportunity to take on the PIRTEK Enduro Championship, my friendship with Nick Percat grows stronger and it’s a pleasure to work and drive with him. He is a very talented guy who will go far in V8 Supercars and any other form of motor sport he chooses in the future I am sure.

So that’s it for another year, I will be back next year with Corvette Racing for my 15th season in the USA as a Corvette factory driver to take on the renamed WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and hopefully renew my acquaintance with Nick and LDM in Australia.

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