Britain’s Oliver Gavin achieved his best ever finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona today, his No.90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP being classified in fifth place despite suffering from a broken exhaust and finishing the race in the pit lane.
The team knew from the outset that fighting for victory was always going to be a tall order, with the Corvette DPs suffering a speed deficit compared to the winning Ganassi Riley-BMW car, so a top six finish was a great result for the Visit Florida-sponsored squad. Factory GM Corvette driver, Olly, was driving this weekend with his ALMS team mates Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia, plus the brother of Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor, Ricky, who is Westbrook’s season-long SDR team mate in the Grand Am Series.
The No.90 suffered a series of small technical issues through the race but was, until two hours to the finish, on the lead lap and within touching distance of a podium placing. Antonio Garcia was behind the wheel when he reported an exhaust problem and there were fears that the car’s engine would not last the distance. The Spaniard nursed it round, backed up by Taylor and Westbrook who cycled through the car after him, and were only thwarted from finishing in the final minutes.
“It was an up and down race and we were so close,” said a very tired Olly, “but it’s my best ever finish here so I’m very happy. We had a few issues starting with an exhaust bracket which came away from the car and showered sparks behind us for quite a while. That was fixed under a yellow and I got the chance in the second of my three stints to have a nice fight with Marcus Ambrose, Mike ‘Rocky’ Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud but that was halted by an intermittent misfire. We hung on right to the end and it just proves once again that you never give up in an endurance race. It’s not over till it’s over.”
Shortly before sunrise heavy fog descended over Daytona International Speedway and racing was effectively suspended for 100 minutes as the field followed a safety car around the 3.56-mile, 12-turn speedway road course. In all, about one quarter of the race was run under yellow caution periods but it was an exciting and nail-biting finish for the overall runners and GT class competitors.
For Olly it’s likely this will be the last time he will race a Daytona Prototype in the 24-hour event as this time next year, thanks to the merged Grand Am and ALMS series, he will be in the all-new Corvette C7.R. “It’ll be interesting to see how it will perform here at Daytona next year. It will be its race debut so it’s going to be not only spectacular but also a voyage of discovery for all of us. Our team boss at Pratt & Miller, Gary Pratt, has been here this week with his tape measure, seeing whether our normal pit structure can or will be allowed to fit here, and generally asking lots of questions. As I say, a voyage of discovery for all of us!”
Olly’s next race will be with Corvette Racing at the opening round of the 2013 American Le Mans Series, the 12 Hours of Sebring, in Florida on 16th March.