In Their Own Words: Oliver Gavin and Darren Turner
Two of the most pleasant personalities in the American Le Mans Series
MONTEREY, Calif. – Two of the most pleasant personalities in the American Le Mans Series just happen to be involved in one of the most watched championship battles in its history. Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Aston Martin Racing’s Darren Turner each have championships on the line in this weekend’s Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
For Gavin, it’s a second straight drivers title with Olivier Beretta. For Turner, he wants to be a part of a team and manufacturers championship for Aston Martin. Whatever happens, these two are sure to be in the midst.
Question: Oliver, you and Olivier are on the verge of winning a second straight GT1 championship. Given all that has transpired this season, does that make it more rewarding?
Oliver Gavin: I think that it has been a very intriguing season. If we do end up winning, it will be very satisfying. It’s always good to race against good and strong competition. And we’ve had this with Aston Martin and Prodrive. You sort of come away if you are the winner being satisfied with that because you know you’ve been a good team and some great drivers. As a result, it would be as satisfying if not more satisfying than last year.
Q: Darren, there has been a lot said about the competition in GT1, but some say IMSA has enforced that. Your thoughts?
Darren Turner: As a driver, we just want to go racing and have good competition. The rest of the stuff that goes on off the circuit is something I don’t want to get involved in. That’s down to the teams, IMSA, Corvette and Aston Martin to work out what’s the best situation. It’s better that Corvette has competition better than racing themselves. That’s definitely a possibility if things aren’t on an even playing field. It’s a shame that the weights and restrictions have gone up and down. That’s been the most frustrating part. You don’t always know what the situation is going to be each week. It’s been close for the season. We’ve gotten to the end of the season, and it’s not decided, which is exciting for the driver and the teams, but more importantly for the spectators and supporters of the championship. It’d be nicer if there wasn’t as much of this off-circuit stuff. Hopefully next year will be easier and everyone can focus back on the racing.
Q: Oliver, have the changes had an effect on the season in your mind?
OG: Sure, it’s had an effect on the season. It’s frustrating at points, but this is not really something that drivers want to get drawn into. Our jobs are to get into the cars and drive the fastest with what we’ve got. That’s what every one of us has done – whether we’re at Aston Martin Racing or Corvette Racing – all year. And that’s shown in some of the great races we’ve had. Maybe we would have liked it to be more stable through the year. Maybe the fans and teams might have understood things a bit more. It is what it is. There’s one more race to go and we’re going to be approaching it the same way as before. We’re going out there to win, and hopefully we’ll take the manufacturers and drivers titles.
Q: Is this the same thing trying to manufacture and maintain competition?
OG: I suppose it is. The Series has realized that it has to make some adjustments maybe at the start, middle and maybe a couple of changes through the end (of the season) to keep certain teams in the championship. I think everyone has to accept that. Everyone has different needs and everyone has different commercial influences. With all that said, you have to suck it up sometimes and realize that you’ve put all that effort to make a car go fast but to keep the competition in the Series, you have to let it go and deal with what you have.
Q:You had almost a dream season last year and are on the verge of a second. Yet very much so in North America, you and Olivier have remained in the shadow of your North American partners (Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell). Any thoughts on that?
OG: Not really. It’s part of the nature of the fact that we’re European. We are racing against a car that has North Americans. Ron has a very high profile running in NASCAR road races, and Johnny is well-known in sports car circles in America and with Corvette. It’s only natural that in North America they are going to have a slightly higher profile. It’s not something we’re bothered about. We accept it and respect it. We want to do the talking on the track and our results will speak for us. It’s not a big issue.
Q: For both you, what are your thoughts on racing at Monterey and where there are advantages and disadvantages for each car?
OG: It’s going to be a little different for us this year because the track has been resurfaced, repaved and a couple of the corners are a bit reconfigured. I think the tarmac is slightly more abrasive. All of these things may add up to Michelin and Corvette having an advantage or it may add up to Pirelli and Aston Martin having an advantage. Or it may be a level playing field. You just don’t know. We have data from all the years we’ve raced there on the old surface. We were going to be going into Laguna reasonably confident with a strong car, strong drivers, strong tire choice. Now it’s thrown a little bit of doubt in it. Our car is usually pretty good over the bumps and the track configuration will suit the Corvette. It seems that the faster tracks that we go to – like a Road Atlanta or a Road America or Le Mans – the Aston may be a little bit better.
DT: From last year when I ran the circuit, it was a surprise how strong the Corvette was there. Hopefully with the new circuit and if the tarmac is a bit more abrasive that will play into our hands. Generally if it’s a slippery surface we’ve struggled.
Q: Corvette has won the last two races at Monterey but had five straight losses in prior years. Have the last two years that changed the attitudes about Laguna Seca?
OG: Last year it turned out to be a good track for us. We had a good car and it seemed like the tires really suited the tarmac. We were comfortable with the setup. It will be a bit of an unknown. No one has tested there or raced there. It’s all together different data to look at. That first test session on Thursday is going to be pretty important.
Q: At Road Atlanta, it appeared brakes were a problem for Corvette. Part of that was contributed to weight. Have changes been made on the brakes and will they be as much of an issue?
OG: The brakes we ran at Atlanta, that was an unusual and unique thing to happen and that won’t happen again. The brakes will be monitored at Laguna, but it won’t be near as much of an issue as at Atlanta or Sebring. We won’t be making the same mistake again.
Q: Can you both reflect on last year’s race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?
OG: It was great to be involved in and watch it. It showed when you have a number of good competitive cars racing close together, it can be one of the most exciting things to watch. We can only hope it will be like that this coming weekend. The first 20 laps at Atlanta were quite fun. We had good clean racing and a lots of possibilities of overtaking and all four cars close together.
DT: Last year was really fun at Laguna. From inside the Aston car, it was hard work keeping up. Road Atlanta and Road America this year were both fantastic too. It’s great fun when you’re running close together and not against a stopwatch. It’s much more fun when the competition is close. The challenge is obviously when you’re coming up on the GT2 cars but you have the prototypes as well. It can go to and fro between having no gap to then falling back as traffic comes through. But that’s part of the challenge.
Q: Is there any more pressure on this race with the championship on the line?
OG: If you look at it, every race in the championship is important. You can look at it as there is a lot of pressure for the last race, and a finish this way or that way can have a huge impact on the championship. The way I look at it, there is just as much pressure is on this race compared to Lime Rock or Road America or Road Atlanta. You have to keep scoring points and taking places. That’s been part of the key to Olivier and I being where we are in the championship. Sometimes we have to take whatever we can get. You have to keep racking the points up. There will be that little bit of extra pressure because there is no next one after this. The managements on both teams will be putting a little more emphasis on getting that result or getting qualifying done and that final stint just right. Whenever Olivier or I get in the car, we’re as focused as ever. We don’t necessarily think it will be that different.
DT: Pressure is a little bit less for me than Tomas because I’ve missed a round. The main thing is that I’ll do the best I can because I want Tomas to win the championship. There’s a different sort of pressure for the No. 4 car to clinch the championship. I think how the points are they have to finish the race to clinch. Every driver in all the cars have different pressures. There definitely is some competition between the two Astons. I certainly don’t want to finish behind the 009. We’ll put up a good fight.
Q: What are your feelings on team championship tie?
DT: Ties are rubbish. You go through the whole winter thinking, “One more extra point and we could have won the championship.” I’m sure it’s the same for Corvette – getting a win is better than getting a draw. There are four drivers per team and you feel bad when you’re on the podium because you have such a strong group of guys and girls behind us that they don’t get to share that highlight of the weekend. If we win that championship, then it’s a great reward for the hard work they’ve done for the season. I guess a draw means everyone goes down to the bar and slaps everyone on the back.
OG: I spoke to Doug (Fehan) earlier in the week, and we’re not interested in sharing the championship. It’s not something we want to register or focus on. Our focus is on winning. You can’t have half a cup or half a trophy. It might be quite nice for the Series. But you don’t want to see it on a piece of paper that you are the winning manufacturer but also see has an asterisk that says “tied with Aston Martin.” Both manufacturers want to win, and that’s what we have set out to do.
Q: Darren, how has Pirelli and the performance of the tires evolved?
DT: I was really pleased with some of the weekends like Salt Lake. We had a fantastic tire there. Other weekends like Lime Rock hasn’t been so great. The performance has improved. The last round at Laguna shouldn’t be too hot, and that’s where we don’t struggle as much and the tire performance is better. If we have a tire that is as good as Salt Lake, it should make for a great race.
The final round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at 2:45 p.m. PDT on Saturday, October 21 with SPEED providing live coverage. MotorsTV will broadcast the race in Europe starting at 10:30 p.m. UTC in England and 11:30 p.m. CET. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage, and IMSA Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.
Release Date: October 17, 2006