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Corvette Racing's Tommy Milner & Oliver Gavin: The COTA Interview

Posted on August 24, 2015

Written by harlow

Ahead of this past weekend's Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIR, COTA was lucky enough to get some face time with Corvette Racing's Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin. They dished on Le Mans success, the state of Corvette, and what makes COTA such a unique addition to the TUDOR Championship calendar. Check it out:

We can’t talk to you guys without mentioning what an incredible year it’s been for Corvette racing. Class wins at the 24 hours of Daytona and the 12 hours of Sebring, and you guys added the cherry on top with the win at Le Mans. The only question is: Where do you go from here?

TM: Our approach right now since we’re a little far off in the Manufacturer Championship is to go for wins. That was our focus at VIR and it’ll be our No. 1 priority at COTA. Having Corvette Racing and Chevrolet win the Triple Crown this year was an amazing accomplishment. There is nothing more any of us would like to win the last two races - here and Petit Le Mans - to bring the GTLM titles back to Detroit and Corvette Racing.

OG: We’re really coming down to the business end of the season. Every point matters. Any decision you make in any session and any race is vital. We’re very much playing a supporting role to our sister Corvette in the TUDOR Championship. Things haven’t really run our way once our season kind of snowballed at Sebring. It was a bad event for us with mechanical issues and other things. The No. 3 car with those two wins has put itself front-and-center in the championship. We’ll continue to push and work through everything we have. Tommy and I are very much buoyed by our efforts at Le Mans and what it means to our season and Corvette Racing’s season as a whole. It will be nice to be back with the WEC and be with them for the weekend. I’m sure there will be some reminders of our Le Mans victory!

Do you think the C7.R’s strong form this year will translate to success at Lone Star Le Mans? Does COTA suit the Corvette?

TM: It’s a track that lends itself to good racing. As we saw with Antonio a couple years ago - even without one of the fastest cars - you can with good pit strategy get a win. That makes a big difference in how you can approach this event. We know that if we don’t have the fastest car, we can make something happen. That certainly was one of the most exciting races we’ve seen with Antonio holding off a large pack of cars.

OG: COTA is going to be a tough event for us. There are a lot of straightaways and lot of corners where you need high levels of downforce. Our Corvettes are always good on the brakes and good in the brake zones. There are lot of heavy braking areas at COTA - Turn 1, Turn 10 and into Turn 11. Our car is pretty slippery, so that’s a good thing and will help us there.

Oliver, you’ve been with Corvette Racing for over a decade. You’ve raced three generations of Corvettes. Which is your favorite and why?

OG: You always look back at cars with which you’ve had success. I’ll certainly look back at the Corvette C7.R with fond memories from the win this year at Le Mans. In terms of a car that gave me out-and-out satisfaction to drive in a race, I’d have to say it’s the final version of the C6.R GT1 Corvette we had back in 2008 and 2009. That car was a huge amount of fun to drive. There were periods of time with the GT2/GTE-spec Corvette C6.R that were fantastic and fun. But when you look back on which cars that had the most power, the most downforce, the most braking capability and the most performance, that GT1 car and it was fantastic. If you talk to anyone who drove the GT1 Corvette or any other GT1 car in that area, they’ll all gush about it and how wonderful it was to drive. And the racing was really great. It was just a fun period.

Tommy, you’ve won at Le Mans twice now. I would say you’ve ‘made it’. Would you agree, or are you still hungry for more?

TM: Just because you have one, you want to get more. You always want to win the next one. I can say that winning the second one was just as sweet as the first. There’s no resting on your laurels - especially at a race like Le Mans. It is the biggest sports car race in the world. To win twice now with Chevrolet and Corvette Racing is pretty special to go back home and see those trophies on the mantle. I’ll be glad to make room for a few others!

What’s your favorite section of the track at COTA?

TM: That’s a tough one. There are quite a few sections at COTA that are quite fun. The track is split up into three distinct sections. You have the first bit with the really fast esses that are incredibly fun, and that section goes on for a good bit. The flow of the race track there is so nice and continues all the way to the hairpin and the entry to the back straightaway. As a driver, you get geared up for that first section, and then when you get to the hairpin you can rest a little bit before getting to the second part of the rhythmic sections, so to speak. You have a couple of slower corners before you get to the really challenging, fun and super-quick triple-apex right-hander. That next left just after the triple-right is a lot of fun in our GT cars. It’s definitely not flat; you’re a little bit on the brake and onto the curbs on the inside with a lot of room at the exit. The track has a nice blend of everything. It’s not too busy or drawn out during the lap. You have a nice, fast section in places and some slow corners in others. It’s a fun track to drive by yourself but also provides some great passing opportunities during the race.

OG: It has to be that first sort of section of turns two through five. They are all high-speed and fast. You can really feel the car working through there. It’s a fun section of track but difficult to get right. You have to pick your points but it’s a really good part and something all drivers like - where you have to be accurate and brave in order to test yourself and the car.

Tommy and Oliver hit the track at COTA during Lone Star Le Mans, three days and nights of nonstop racing action with WEC and TUDOR Championship September 17-19. Cheer on Corvette Racing as the spirit of Le Mans returns to Texas.