Seeing triple in 2014by Web Editor on 5th December 2014
By Oliver Gavin
As I started packing for my final trip of the year – to New Orleans for a Corvette C7.R test – I began thinking about what an interesting year I’ve had and all the ups and downs that have gone with it. I was fortunate enough to race with three different teams on three continents, all with very different philosophies and idiosyncrasies, whether it was the United SportsCar Championship in the USA, the ADAC GT Masters in Europe, or V8 Supercars in Australia.
Each series has been fiercely competitive and all have real merits, but each one also has its flaws. In the ADAC and USCC there is an issue with the way the Balance of Performance is executed and adjustments meted out, while in V8 Supercars certain manufacturers are given certain breaks – Nissan has the most downforce and Volvo the most power for example – and all those things come into play over a race weekend. Until you’re involved, you don’t really know that much about it so it’s all been a bit of a learning curve.
There was one common theme and that was a young team-mate. In each car I have been teamed with a driver in his twenties, someone who is at the beginning of his career in sports cars: hungry, fast and determined. It’s been very interesting to experience that and see how different drivers approach different problems and deal with the pressure of a race weekend. I enjoyed testing myself against Tommy Milner at Corvette Racing, Daniel Keilwitz at Callaway Corvette in the ADAC GT Masters and Nick Percat at Walkinshaw Racing in the V8s. They put me outside my comfort zone and that’s a good thing for a driver at any stage as you learn so much about yourself and about people in general.
At Corvette Racing we’ve had a great deal of stability over a good many years and the team knows me inside out and vice versa. This was a difficult year for a number of reasons, and it was the first time in 13 seasons that I’ve actually had more success away from the team than with them. It’s unusual and I certainly hope it doesn’t continue like that; come 2015 we will be able to get back to winning ways of 2012 and 2013.
Tommy is the 2014 driving partner I know the best, and one of the great things about him is that you know exactly what you’ve got each weekend. He’s consistent, quick and not overly emotional, just rock solid and very easy to get on with. You can always talk through issues and problems – he’s clear on what he wants and is a real team player, properly understanding that it takes a team of two or sometimes three people to do this. He’s developed a strong relationship with all the guys and adapted himself into the Corvette Racing mentality.
From the first year we got to know each other, I soon figured out it would be good partnership as we won races and the championship. He’s a great team-mate! Through the middle of this year, when Tommy and I were having struggles with the new C7.R, he tried not to spin out too much about it and it was good to have that steadying influence. Previous team-mates might well have been jumping up and down screaming.
Working with Daniel was a new challenge as he’s a bit quieter and almost shy to start with, although when he gets to know you he comes out of himself. He reminds me of Antonio García; from the outside you’d never think he would be quite so ruthless and quick in the car but has this ability to put on his helmet, switch it on and deliver. He’s very well established at Callaway Competition and won the championship with them in 2013. We had a difficult start to the year with two DNFs at Oschersleben, but he came through and finished third in Championship. The two victories we had together at the Red Bull Ring got his 2014 back on track and it was great to be part of that. He’s a very talented driver and someone who’s going to be in and around sports car racing for many years.
I was fortunate to spend several weeks at a time in Australia and that meant I got to know Nick pretty well. He’s very quick, very determined and very strong with his beliefs on what should be happening with the car – you’re never left wondering what he thinks of the car and that’s great, you need that positive approach to things. He’s fiercely competitive and has a real fire in his belly and drive to be successful; it’s what every young driver needs to have.
He’s smart too and impressed me at Bathurst with his thinking under great mental and physical pressure, mostly due to the heat in the car, and I’m sure he will have a very long career in V8s. To have mentors such as Garth Tander, James Courtney and Tim Slade can’t be bettered, and I’m sure there will be many good battles over the next year or so. I do think, however, Nick would benefit from doing some sports cars outside Australia and in a different culture as that would make him a really rounded driver.
With Daniel and Nick, I’ve not only had to get to know them but also understand and learn how to race in different series, be quick in cars that are quite different, on tyres which are very different. Their approach and how they drive through a session and prepare the car for the start of a race has been great to learn from, knowing when to push or not on the tyres, feeding off their specialist knowledge.
For example, in V8s there’s a specific procedure to go through to get off the line well and there’s a fine balance to getting it right. You soon see why the V8 is a car you need time in and around but it’s a great challenge and a huge amount of fun; our podium result at Bathurst was the icing on the cake.
All of my team-mates this year have taught me a lot – I hope I’ve managed to also teach them something too! We are all now training hard, testing and preparing for 2015 and I look forward to seeing everyone next year.