CORVETTE RACING AT PETIT LE MANS: Oliver Gavin’s Keys to Road Atlanta
Six-time ALMS winner at the circuit gives the inside secrets
With six victories in 15 American Le Mans Series starts at Road Atlanta, Oliver Gavin certainly knows his way around the circuit. Corvette Racing’s superstar Englishman has hundreds of laps under his belt around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit and is immensely qualified to speak on the challenges the track presents as well as keys to quickly getting around. He hopes to taste victory again in the No. 4 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6.R with Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook.
Turn 1: A Thrill
“Turn 1 for me – if you get that right – is a really, really good corner. You come down the frontstraight, are braking on the bumps and go down one gear. Then you try to carry as much speed through the apex. The car tends to slide a little bit just as you apex, but the track starts going uphill and that catches you a bit. It helps with your line and gives the car a little extra grip. Then as you come out of there you have to line yourself up for braking into Turn 3.
“Should you get it right, it builds your confidence for the rest of the lap. If you’re on a qualifying lap, you have to make sure you get that corner right. It’s so important.”
The Esses: Biggest Challenge
“The most difficult section of the track is the combination through turns 3, 4 and 5.
“As you come into Turn 3, you’re braking up and over a blind crest, and you know you have to start turning into the corner before you see the apex. It’s all about repetition and getting that knowledge of where you need to turn in and how much speed you need to carry in there. You need to get over the curb on the inside in a way that the car floats over it. Then when you land on the other side you’re not bottoming out the car and you’re giving it as much speed through there to get down the hill – but not so much that you’re going on the curb at the exit. If you do that, the car gets out of shape and it can be difficult going down the hill.
“Then you’re hugging the curb tightly at Turn 4, and the end of the complex is almost always flat out in our car. Maybe in qualifying we will be flat. But on full tanks and worn tires, it’s harder to do. It’s right on the ragged edge. It’s an area where a lot of prototype cars have caught you out of Turn 1 and they are waiting for you to go through Turn 3 and to go by through 4A. That is a real challenge – either breathe and let them go by or keep them behind you going down the hill.
“It’s difficult then to get the braking point for Turn 5 right. That is a corner where you need to carry speed in and maximize the apex speed. Getting off the corner, you want to be able to use some of the curb on the exit but not too much. If you use too much the car will start leaping and bouncing around and can easily spin or go into the wall. But it’s critical to set up the run to Turn 6.”
Turn 7: Key to the Lap
“Whenever people talk about Road Atlanta, they usually talk about Turn 12, Turn 1 or maybe the Esses. But for me the most important corner is Turn 7 – going to the backstraight. If you get that right, you can make up so much time on everybody. You’re carrying all that speed through and out of the corner and all the way down the backstraight. It’s the longest section of straightaway on the whole circuit. It’s vital to get that right because it can really impact your lap time.”