Gavin, Milner have special Long Beach history

April 9, 2018

Gavin, Milner have special Long Beach history

April 9, 2018

For Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, the streets of Long Beach pack a personal, special history.

Gavin and Milner seemed to simultaneously hit a career crossroads in the 2011 season, before the team paired them together. Milner replaced Johnny O’Connell in Corvette’s lineup as its only full-time American driver, and shared the No. 3 Corvette C6.R with Oliver Beretta. Meanwhile, Gavin had Jan Magnussen alongside him in the No. 4 car.

It seems hard to believe that at that point, the Gavin/Milner and Magnussen/Antonio Garcia pairings that Corvette Racing has utilized for the last seven years were merely an idea.

But in 2012, Corvette switched things up. Gavin and Milner – two similarly tall drivers – were the new pairing in the No. 4 Corvette, while Garcia ascended to the full-time lineup alongside Magnussen in the No. 3 car after racing for a few years as a third driver.

Milner hadn’t so much as finished on a podium in then-American Le Mans Series competition since his Corvette debut at Sebring, 2011, with Beretta and Garcia when he got moved over. Driving with Gavin and Richard Westbrook, they were third again at Sebring in 2012.

At Long Beach though, it all came good, as Gavin and Milner won their first race together as co-drivers. Oddly, it also marked Milner’s first ever ALMS win after years of coming close with Panoz, BMW and Corvette before. He’d won at Le Mans, 2011, in a memorable drive with Beretta and Garcia, but that race was not part of the U.S. championship.

The 2012 Long Beach win was additionally special, because rain on Friday that year had meant the team had gotten almost no valuable running the day before the race.

“Finally, I got a win in ALMS, racing since 2006,” Milner said at the time. “I’ve had some great podiums and big heartbreaks after chances to win. With an unknown car from the rain sessions, it was great to get a win that meant something.

“I learned a bit from last year where I had put myself in bad situations so I focused on keeping out this year. It’s a big team win today, not just about me, but the team, and my co-driver.”

Milner and Gavin carried the momentum the rest of that season. The team added three more wins en route to the 2012 ALMS GT championship.

Flash forward to 2016, and after a few tough seasons, luck and momentum was finally back on the No. 4 car’s side. Gavin and Milner won the two opening races that year in dramatic style at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the now Corvette C7.R.

A chance for a three-peat to start the year at Long Beach came unglued in the final minutes. Contact between Milner and Fred Makowiecki’s No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR sent Milner into a spin, but he recovered to finish second. Just like in 2012, the No. 4 car won twice more, and this time captured the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class title.

Long Beach luck turned in Gavin and Milner’s favor last year, when Garcia got blocked in behind a three-car GTD accident at the hairpin and Milner snuck through to claim a most unexpected win.

The luck pendulum swung after the race, though, because in the last 10 races the No. 4 car hasn’t even finished on the podium. The car’s best result is fourth place, at the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans and 2018 Rolex 24.

Milner explained how he and Gavin keep pressing on, in spite of what seems to be their latest rut of bad luck.

“I wish I could tell you what it is that makes it change from having all of the luck in the world to none of it!” he laughed. “But certainly I’m a proponent of making your own luck in most things.

“We were critical of ourselves in 2013 and 2014, to get ourselves better. This goes back to that need to always sort of want to get better. I think if you just rest on your laurels and go based on what you did in the past, you’re not going to grow much, and you’ll be stuck faltering for a while.”

Gavin and Milner don’t seem to falter at Long Beach much, though. In their six years together as co-drivers there, they’ve finished first, fourth, third, seventh, second and first.

Saturday’s race marks six years to the day, April 14, 2012, when Gavin and Milner won for the first time at Long Beach. They’ll look to emulate that achievement and also repeat their 2017 win on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

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