Recently re-signed GM Chevrolet factory driver, Oliver Gavin, from Yardley Hastings in Northamptonshire, UK, will next weekend be swapping the Corvette bow-tie for the muscles of Banner Racing’s No. 07 THECOOLTV/KWL Trucking/EMC Chevrolet Camaro in the 49th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The recent official test at Daytona International Speedway in Florida allowed the 38-year-old sports car winner to experience the infamous banking for the first time in a GT car. Gavin has competed at Daytona’s 24-hour event four times before, but always in a Daytona Prototype or similar class of machinery.
“Daytona is an event where you have to do a lot of housekeeping work,” says the four-time Le Mans class winner. “You need to be very prepared with your brakes, tires and car because it’s a very, very hard 24-hour race and the test went very well helping us to prepare for that.
“The Banner Racing Camaro, which is operated by the Leighton Reese Performance Group, ran well every day we were there and all four of us – me, Gunter Schaldach, Eric Curran and Bruce Ledoux – got a good amount of time in the car. Everyone has been to Daytona before, and both Eric and Bruce drive in the Continental Cup so they’ve been getting lot of track time to get up to speed.”
Gavin’s car is developed by Pratt & Miller, the same engineering company behind the super-successful Corvette which he has raced over the last decade. “We worked through quite few change to get the car to our liking at the test. It’s a P & M car; when you change something, the change does what it’s supposed to do and that level of consistency and reliability is really important going into this race.
“The wear on the new Continental tires was virtually nothing, which is great, but on the newly resurfaced banking we were seeing quite high tire temperatures which might be an issue if the race weekend is very hot. The new paving is fantastic, it’s a lovely surface to drive on and I think it will even out the field a lot.
“Before, you had to pick your way through the banking to the NASCAR 3 and 4 turns, which is where a lot of the NASCAR drivers who do this race picked up an advantage over us road racing guys. They knew where to pick through and let the car run, they didn’t fight it, and were usually the fastest at the end of the straight. It’s very smooth now and the transition from the banking into the rest of the track is shallower and not as harsh, which makes it more comfortable but takes away some of the skill element required. It’ll be interesting to see if the ‘home’ advantage still remains.”
Oliver anticipates fierce competition throughout the 24-hour race, and a veritable ‘who’s who’ of international racing stars will take be lining up for the start at 3:30 pm (EST) on Saturday, January 29. Of the 45 entries in the event, 30 are from the GT class. “It will be hugely competitive. There’s a whole host of Porsches, and the Mazdas have always been fast there although we had to raise an eyebrow at their lack of speed in the test! The BMW M3 also showed good pace, and we shouldn’t forget there are two other Camaros. I’m going to be racing against my regular ALMS team mate, Jan Magnussen, who’s in the Stevenson car, which will be fun, and it’s going to be intense and close between us all. I can’t wait.”