ALMS – Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring – Oliver Gavin
(And His Blue Peter Badge)

Russell Wittenberg found Ollie Gavin on Friday at Sebring: it’s amazing what Russell knew before asking the questions….

dailysportscar.comIn ’02 you ran a partial season in the #3 car, teaming with Fellows and O’Connell. It could not have gone any better as you completed the trifecta with wins at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit.
I was still a bit unsure at the end of the ’02 season on exactly what my role was to be for the next year. Then Doug Fehan came to me and asked me to return for next season as Team Captain in the #4 car. Needless to say I was pleased and excited. It would be my first full season of championship racing since ’99, in Formula 3000. Kelly and I had a great season. We just had a few unfortunate weekends that kept us out of the championship.

You lost both your co-drivers during the off-season shake up at Corvette, how was that to deal with?
I got along great with both Kelly and Andy and really enjoyed racing with them. It was quite difficult when it happened, it was really a very tough thing to deal with. Unfortunately in racing, in the real world, situations change and things move on. I guess if you were on the outside looking back at it you could say things really turned to shit for them after Ollie showed up. But that is not the way it happened at all.

You had won GTS at Sebring in ’01 & ’02. But was not to be in ’03.
That was very disappointing. We had raced hard against the Ferraris early on. I particularly had a great race with Darren Turner at the beginning. As the race went on, their threat faded away and we were able to lap the #3 car. Andy and Kelly had done a fantastic job and we literally had the race won, we just needed to finish. Two hours to go the drive shaft broke. It had never broken before and hasn’t since. It was just bad luck.

But in ’01 with the Saleen many would say you were very lucky.
It was a last minute deal to get in the Konrad car. It was a very fresh car, had hardly turned a wheel before that weekend. It was very quick, I qualified it on the pole and was able to pull away from the Corvettes early on, but we never thought it would last. Franz Konrad was amazing, he would drive the car for an hour, come into the pits, jump out with crash helmet still on, work on the car like a mechanic putting body work back on or whatever, and then back in to do another stint. He was like some kind of superhuman. Somehow the car held together and we won the race. Yes, we were incredibly lucky.

You have to feel pretty confident going into this weekend’s race.
I am really excited about this weekend, I feel we are very well prepared. I had a lot of fun during qualifying. The 575s and the ACEMCO Saleen are just not up to speed yet. I think the Saleen will be a real threat later in the season though: that is a quick car and Terry and Johnny are experienced and fast.

As announced earlier today, Dick Barbour will be entering a pair of Lamborghinis in the GTS class at the next round. This is a car you are also familiar with?
I have driven the Lamborghini a couple of times and I have stayed in contact with the constructors. It’s a good car, it will be fast and I expect a serious effort from them.

You have some new and very competitive drivers on your team now. What is the demeanor around the team this year?
The intensity is definitely up this year around this team. The competition between the cars has been clicked up a notch. All the drivers have quite a background and are pushing each other. There is no weak link. And the new guys are very good, very experienced and bring a fresh objective on what we are doing. They are asking why. Questioning the way we have been doing certain things.

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You spent some time driving for Jon Field and Intersport Racing. Tell me about that.
I have to really thank Jon for all he did for me. I had a lot of fun with those guys. Jon is an absolutely fantastic guy and a damn talented driver. He is willing to give it a go, no matter what. Whatever, whoever is out there, Audi, Dyson, Panoz, it doesn’t matter, he will race them. We were able to win a couple races together, including one at Mid-Ohio, which is Jon’s home track so that was really nice. That was an interesting race for me as it was the week before Le Mans and I was flying out that afternoon to prepare for my drive in the Saleen with Terry Borcheller. So the plan was for Jon to start, I would take the second stint and then leave for the airport immediately after it, as Jon would take the last stint to finish the race. I took over in about fourth place and was really having a good run, was able to pass James in the Dyson car and move up a few positions. So Jon came over the radio and said stay in you are doing great. I said Jon I got to catch my plane. But he wouldn’t let me out, he kept saying no; no you’re doing great stay in. So I stayed and was able to beat the Dyson guys and won the race. It really was great for Jon and the team, all of his family was there.

dailysportscar.comI’m sorry but I can’t let you go without asking you about the incident you had with one very famous driver while driving the Intersport Lola at Road Atlanta.
I was coming down through the Esses, approaching a slower car. I noticed it was one of the Barbour Porsches and actually thought to myself that Paul Newman is driving one of his cars. Well he was right down the middle of the track and I was closing quickly. I chose to go by on the right side coming into turn five. I thought I had completed the pass when he hit me in the left rear. I went spinning off into the gravel and he went off into the other direction. I sat there in the gravel for what seems like forever, looking over at the damaged Porsche. Then the door opens and the driver gets out, hair immaculate, sunglasses on, I said oh shit, it’s Paul Newman. He tried to close the door and it fell off the car, then he limps away, off up the track. I had all these thoughts flashing before me, you know, Newman sues Gavin for a million dollars after wreck, that kind of thing. Then I had to face both Jon Field and Dick Barbour and explain to them why their cars were wrecked. I am never going to live that one down.

I understand that over in England you are something of a TV star after a guest appearance on a show called Blue Peter.
(Laughing out loud) That is a TV program for children back in the U.K. I was driving a Vauxhall Lotus at the time and was about nineteen years old. I guess I had a fresh innocent face. I can’t even remember what the link was between racing and the program but I was interviewed in my driver’s suit by one of their hosts. I got a Blue Peter Badge from the show, which when worn would get you a free pass into museums and such. I took quite a lot of ribbing from my friends for that one.

 

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