Corvette’s Captain Gavin walking away with pride

Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

Corvette’s Captain Gavin walking away with pride

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Corvette’s Captain Gavin walking away with pride

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Gavin, due to his natural leadership qualities and tenure, has long been referred to as ‘The Captain’ within Corvette Racing.

“Fehan was the one that said to me — it was 2004, after my first full year, ‘Look, you are the team captain here of your car,’” he recalled. “And then as that through the years, when Ron was still on the team and he was still the figurehead, and fundamentally the leader, and that… I wouldn’t say father figure, but when I joined the team, he really was that man that everybody looked up to. It was very clear that he was the leader of all of us. if you needed a question answered on a driver thing, Ron was the guy.

“I took a lot of guidance from him when I was the team captain on my car. But then when he then moved and then he stopped driving with us, I suppose it was a natural progression for me to sort of move over and somewhat be the leader. And I was also, then at that time, one of the older drivers on the team. Olivier (Beretta) was still driving with me at that point, and I think Olivier’s maybe a year older than me. But I suppose because I’m English and the language wasn’t any problem for me, it was still a little bit of an issue for Olivier, that I naturally progressed to being that leader and that that person that was sort of guiding the drivers along.”

Corvette Racing’s “old guard” at Le Mans in 2004, (left to right): Ron Fellows, Max Papis, Jan Magnussen, Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta. Motorsport Images

As Corvette Racing’s original guard moved onto retirement, or departed for other teams, Gavin became the bridge to a new generation of driver that will carry the team forward. From teammate Tommy Milner, to new GTLM champions Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, to endurance drivers Marcel Fassler and Nicky Catsburg, The Captain has been a friend and mentor.

“Then from that point onwards, the guys that have joined, whether it was Antonio, or Tommy, or even Marcel, they would always come to me for the guidance, and the advice, and how things just function within the team, and what’s expected, what’s not expected,” Gavin said. “This racing for the last 19 years with Corvette Racing has really been my life and when I’ve been over here in the United States. My wife would also argue that he’s been pretty much ruling our lives for the last 19 years, even when I’m at home and I’m thinking of all the different things that needs to happen and the conversations with engineers.”

Although the exact nature of Gavin’s upcoming role within the team has not been shared, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a return for the longer races next season. But the key change coming involves slowing down and, after 20-plus years of non-stop racing and traveling, investing the majority of his time and energies into the Gavin family.

“I remember having a conversation with Bill DeLong when we were working on the C7.R, and they were talking about steering wheel placement,” he said. “I was on vacation in Spain, and I was having these almost daily conversations with Bill about where the position of the steering wheel was in that car. And my wife was going crazy, just saying, ‘You need to just switch off. Put the phone down. Move away. Switch it off for a week.’

“But I was just so living it and breathing it and wanting it to be right, and I took my responsibility very seriously — that figure of somewhat being the leader as well, and wanting to make sure that the drivers and the guys that were coming in were going to be looking at it the same way: We needed to be taking this really seriously. This is our job and for it to be successful, we all have to give it 100 percent and we’ve got to have a real focus.

Gavin climbs out of his Corvette C6.R at Road America in 2006. Motorsport Images

“My wife, Helen, and my three children, Lily, Isaac, and Fergus have been a massive support and also a big motivation to stay focused and driven and provide and try and set things up in life for us on a good solid foundation. And that was always the number one driving factor for me, was thinking about those guys and how we can have a stable, happy home. But as time goes by, you realize that there have been some pretty big sacrifices in terms of missing out on certain things that the children have been doing, or just the amount that my wife was doing herself, managing three children. I think we had three under (the age of) five at one point, and just trying to juggle all of that, make it all work, be in all the different places that she needed to…

“It’s time to give some of that back to them and be there for whether it’s my son acting and singing or whether it’s my boy playing soccer or football, or my daughter rowing for the university that she goes to now. I want to experience more of that. I want to see more of that. I want to go and give something back to them because they’ve spent an awful lot of time away from me or standing on the side of a racetrack watching me go around.”

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