By IMSA Wire Service
Between them, they have nine class victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is one more than their team’s impressive win total heading into this weekend’s twice-around-the-clock battle on the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Corvette Racing drivers Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen have celebrated victories atop the Le Mans podium in front of a sea of fans three times together – in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Gavin also won once prior, in 2002, and one time since, in 2015 with co-drivers Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor in the No. 64 Corvette C7.R.
“The last stint that I did in the car in ’15, when it was raining for the last hour off and on around the back of the track, so many things start going through your head,” recalls Gavin, who this year shares the No. 64 Corvete C7.R with Milner and Marcel Fassler in the GTE Pro class. “You start hearing sounds and vibrations you’re feeling, all kinds of crazy things.
“You keep just having to talk to yourself and think about all the other times you’ve been there and all the other experiences you’ve had and how things have felt in the past. It got us through, and we got it over the line and we got another fantastic victory. That’s what we’re aiming for again in ’19.”
Magnussen’s fourth Le Mans victory came in 2009. The Danish racer is going for a fifth on the 10th anniversary of that victory, co-driving the No. 63 C7.R with German driver Mike Rockenfeller and his full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teammate, Antonio Garcia, with whom he also co-drove to the win in 2009.
All of Magnussen’s wins at Le Mans have come as a member of Corvette Racing, which is a source of pride for the Danish racer.
“It’s fantastic,” he says. “To be part of a works team, a factory team, is fantastic at Le Mans. It’s really what you need to have a chance at winning. But to be with Corvette Racing, guys that I’ve worked with for so long now, is just a highlight of the year and what everybody is working for, to be successful at Le Mans.
“I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve won my class at Le Mans four times, all four times with Corvette. Hopefully, we can make it a fifth this year. It’d be fantastic to do with these guys.”
In addition to representing Corvette Racing, Magnussen and Gavin are part of a larger group – 28 drivers to be exact – that are representing the WeatherTech Championship at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both are WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) champions, as Magnussen won the title each of the past two years with Garcia, while Gavin won the 2016 title with Milner.
“It’s nice to go there and be competitive, because it shows how hard of a championship we have here in IMSA,” Magnussen said. “I do feel that our class in IMSA racing is the toughest class out there, and it’s nice to go there and be competitive and beat those guys from the WEC (FIA World Endurance Championship). It’s a cool thing to do.”
“We’ve still got the IMSA badge on our overalls,” added Gavin, who hails from England. “If you come away managing to take the scalp of winning at Le Mans and bringing it back here to the U.S., I think that’s pretty special.
“The fans get a big kick out of that as well, I think, when they see you go over there and conquer that race and that event and also the other teams that are there. That’s something you always want to do. You always want to put one over on the guys that are competing in that championship full time. That does give you a bit of an extra buzz.”
Speaking of buzz, Magnussen also takes pride in representing his native Denmark at Le Mans. He says the turnout of Danish fans is larger at Le Mans than it is at any race actually held in Denmark.
“There’s a great tradition in Denmark for Le Mans with Danish drivers,” Magnussen said. “It was John Nielsen that started the whole thing, and then Tom Kristensen after him and myself. It’s just fantastic to feel the support that we get from the Danish fans.
“They make these massive camps down there. It just seems like, when you’re walking around, everywhere you go, you can hear somebody talking Danish. Or, you can sort of barely make it out, because they’re usually really drunk. They go there and they have a fantastic party for, like, five days.”
A victory at Le Mans would bring another party to the next WeatherTech Championship race, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 30. Gavin knows that feeling well, having experienced it in 2015.
“You get such a reception,” Gavin said. “When we won in ’15 and we came back to the Watkins Glen weekend, that is our biggest Corvette Corral that we have all year is at Watkins Glen. The reception that we got was pretty astonishing with all of those Corvette customers and owners.
“It was a very special feeling and you want to experience that again. That’s what racing and competing is all about, those moments, that emotion, that special little click that you get with the fans and the owners and all the Corvette family. You try to engage with those people and it’s very, very special.”