It’s not an unusual sight to have the Oliver Jarvis name on the 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list, but in 2019 it’s on the GTE Pro and not a LMP1 or LMP2 car, as it’s been in the past.
Racing24-7.net caught up with him on Thursday afternoon, to have a small chat about challenging race that lays ahead in the blue Risi Competizione Ferrari #89 in the GTE Pro category.
“Unfortunately we’ve had quite a difficult build-up. We didn’t get many laps in the pre-test. So we arrived with a brand new car – it had done a roll out. We have had a few small issues. Considering that, we are happy at where we are at, but we definitely a bit on the back foot. Our learning curve is much steeper than the other cars out there.
“Whilst qualifying generally isn’t a focus in a 24 hours race, I think in GTE it’s become more and more important, because if you start at the back, you instantly put yourself in danger of dropping off the lead lap very quickly.
“We are the odd ones out. I looked down the list and it’s mad to thin that we are the only private team out there in the Pro class. And when you look down that list, in any class, there is always a weak car or a weak name. But in the Pro class, it’s the manufactures involved, and you look at the drivers – it’s just a top quality field. It’s easy to say, but for me there is not a class that even comes close. There is some real quality in LMP2, but if you look through 17 cars, 51 drivers, there is just world class drivers.
“For me it’s a real privilege to be a part of, even in a GTE. I’m definitely more of a prototype driver, but I honestly believe that given more time, I can be competitive in a GTE car as well.”
Jarvis is also driving for Mazda Team Joest #55 in the IMSA category, where they still are aiming at their first win for the team.
“It’s terrible, that we’ve been so close, so many times. I genuinely believe, that when we win, we will probably win two or three. But that first one… But I don’t know what we have to do to win. I mean, Mid-Ohio… We led in Daytona, we led in Sebring, we led in Mid-Ohio – and in Mid-Ohio we let half of the race, and they jumped us at the pitstop – they jumped us at Detroit. But we know the competition is so high, so everything has to go right. The programme has made so much progress, and I just hope that we are talking a matter of weeks rather than months and months. But I’m confident that we’ve got Watkins Glen and Mosport coming up, so I think we should be competitive there. Then there is Road America, where we should be pretty quick. Road Atlanta we had a great race last year as well. But again, the fun end of that class is very strong. But I’m happy with the way that the project has come from, and where we are going. We have made a lot of progress. Where we are now, we can consistently fight at the front.
Are you running completely stand-alone here, or are you getting a few tips from the other Ferraris?
“The way that the Risi team and AF Corse work together – I’ve been really impressed about how open that relationship is. Because in many respects we are competing against them. From what I’ve seen, it’s been a fantastic corporation. These guys know what they are doing. I wouldn’t have come here unless it wasn’t a top team. We have been a bit unlucky with a few issues, but they have been on top of them as quick as any team could. I’m confident that we will it all solve, and that we will do a fantastic job in the race.”
It’s a new car for two of the three drivers, with Jarvis and Jules Gounon never raced the Ferrari before, while Pipo Derani has quite a bit of experience in it. But the two drivers are still doing well, not being miles off the pace.
“I think that’s the important thing, that we are not miles off to start with. But I think that we will be quicker and quicker, but we just need to stay in touch with the others, and not drop too far back initially. But I’m really confident that all three of us are going to build into the race – because even Pipo who has much more experience, having raced here last year (in the Ferrari, editor) – for him it’s been a year since he drove the car, so it takes time to adapt. But for me and Jules it’s a new experience. But I’ve been really impressed so far with Jules, how quick that he has come up to speed, and I’m happy with my own performance as well.”
A lot of people might still consider Jarvis being a prototype driver, from all the years with Audi Sport and then Jackie Chan DC Racing, but he has raced quite a bit in GT cars as well.
“From the Audi days, and also P2, and now in IMSA, I prefer to race in prototypes – but at the same time, this year I loved doing Bathurst and and the IGTC in the Nissan, I drove for Bentley and Audi – so I got quite a bit of GT experience, but the GTE is quite different to the GT3 car – no ABS, the way the cars handle, the tires.”
You prefer GTE og GT3?
“(laughing) I just love being in Le Mans, and unfortunately the GT3’s don’t come to Le Mans. And honestly, I prefer not to have ABS. I feel like it takes away a certain amount of skill from the driver – which it’s supposed to do, because GT3 was intended as a gentleman’s class, and it’s become so tough with pro drivers. So I definitely prefer a GTE car from that side, with no ABS. It makes the life a bit more difficult, but the driver has a bit more influence. And I’m really enjoying it.”
But the difference between GT and prototypes must feel big here?
“The GT car is really impressive in the slow speed – even compared to the prototypes. When we come to the Porsche curves, it’s a different story. They are able to go around the outside of us, while we are absolutely on the limit. And that’s just downforce. And the car moves around a lot more in GTE. A prototype is really glued to the track – so everything good, or you are in the wall – whereas here you really need to have the car moving, so it’s a different feeling. So I must say that I had a real smile on my face last night (Wednesday, editor), when I got out of the car. It was the first time that I did 8 laps in a row.
Risi Competizione #89 did end up being slowest in the GTE Pro in the qualifying sessions, but if they can keep it on the island, while others fail to do so in the hard fought category, they might still come away with something from here.