As news of Gavin’s upcoming retirement made the rounds, the reverie and appreciation held for Mr. Corvette was unleashed by friends, fans, and rivals alike.
“It has been amazing just to see social media,” he said. “That’s what was so wonderful about it is that you can interact with so many people — you can interact with so many fans, so many owners, and so many people who are genuine fans of the car. Again, whether it’s for all the different generations of car. I’ve driven the C5, C6, C7, C8 now, and everybody seems to have their favorite and that passion that the fans have or the owners have for that particular model is, it’s really quite exceptional. You’re almost rocked back on your heels by it, by how passionate they are about the vehicle and about their car.
“I suppose that’s one of the things that we’re regularly surprised about when we’re going to Corvette Corrals and we’re meeting the owners — or even now just online, and some of the interactions that you have — is how passionate people are, particularly about that model and that version of the Corvettes; it’s quite amazing. We shouldn’t get so surprised, but we often do. But I’ve been really touched and really very thankful for all the kind words that people have come to me with, whether again it’s through social media or other messages or conversations that I’ve had, or people who have stopped me in the paddock.
“With COVID times and social distancing and all that sort of stuff, the paddock is pretty empty, but at Laguna, it gives you that lovely, warm fuzzy feeling, I suppose, when you’re stopped and many mechanics that you’ve just passed walking down pit lane numerous times, they stop you and they go, ‘Look, Olly, really, really enjoyed watching you for the last 19 years driving for this team. It’s been really a remarkable sort of journey, really enjoyed it. Thank you, and good luck.’ You’ve seen that face so many times before, but you’ve never really stopped and had a chat. And then for them to stop you and just say those words, it’s really … it is a great moment and you sort of feel, like I say, a bit warm and fuzzy about it.
“But the drivers in the paddock that I’ve been battling against wheel to wheel for years, and you have this sort of little bit of a feisty relationship with, and they seek you out and then they go, ‘Look, it’s been brilliant to race against you and really enjoyed those battles that we’ve had on track.’ Just sort of wanted to remember those moments where it’s intense, it’s wheel-to-wheel stuff. You’re not wanting to give a millimeter on the track and you’re driving around side-by-side for like three or four corners, and one of you ends up coming out the better. And one of you is happy and one of you is really pissed off. Some guys carry that for a while. It might be that with particular drivers, that’s happened a number of times and so you carry that baggage for a bit.”
Without the impending threat of Gavin bearing down on future GTLM battles, the opposition from BMW and Porsche have taken time to express their respect for The Captain.
“Quite a few drivers who I’ve had those moments with have come and messaged me, sought me out and thanked me for racing hard and pretty fair the whole time, and the fact that it’s been great fun competing and racing and being out there on track together,” he said. “And that’s kind of the stuff that you want to remember and take away, and it’s been special, very, very special the last couple of weeks.”
Oliver Gavin, a Corvette Racing man to the end.
“I can walk away and be proud of what I’ve achieved with the team and as a team,” he said. “I think that’s a really key thing, is that we’ve done all of this as a team together. And all the success that we’ve had and all the generations of car, it’s been just so special just to be part of that team. To be a cog in that mechanism, to make it all work, and to have that success, it’s been great — really fantastic.
“I have been amazingly lucky to have had such a great career with the team, but I’ve also been amazingly lucky that my wife has supported me so strongly. And I’ve got three wonderful children that come along and support me as well.”