Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Rob Lad­brook

Last Oc­to­ber, Oliver Jarvis had the rug firmly pulled out from un­der him.

The 33-year-old from East Anglia had the world at his feet, which were then clad with cus­tom Audi Sport race boots. He was firmly es­tab­lished in Audi’s full-time FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship and Le Mans squad, and one of just six driv­ers to en­joy a seat in one of the R18 e-tron qu­at­tro LMP1S.

Cou­ple that with a break­through WEC vic­tory back in May at Spa, and the fact Jarvis and his team-mates were well and truly in the pic­ture for the world cham­pi­onship fight, and you can see that life was pretty sweet for Jarvis. He’d made it. Prop­erly made it. Af­ter years of toil to prove he was one of the best sportscar driv­ers in the world, he had made it to the top of the moun­tain.

And then. Bang. It was all taken away in the stroke of a pen in a Wolfs­burg board­room.

Volk­swa­gen or­dered sis­ter brand Audi to cease its sportscar pro­gramme. Jarvis and the other driv­ers were told just hours be­fore the pub­lic an­nounce­ment was made that their ser­vices would no longer be re­quired. Harsh, yes. Cruel, per­haps. Crush­ing, ab­so­lutely. But that is the na­ture of the sport’s bad days. Now the key ques­tion, what next? For Jarvis, it meant hard work, fran­tic re­view­ing of op­tions, and one chance phone call that re­ally paid off.

“When Audi pulled out, the im­me­di­acy of the de­ci­sion re­ally didn’t do us [the driv­ers] any favours,” says Jarvis. “It mas­sively nar­rowed the op­tions as most man­u­fac­turer and top-line teams like to have their driver line-ups set sooner rather than later, so most deals were al­ready signed and sorted that late into the year.

“From the out­side it may have looked like we’d have a queue of man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer­ing us deals af­ter Audi was gone – it would have been lovely if that had been the case, but it was com­pletely the op­po­site. I was left with a phone book, and that’s it.

“Hav­ing been with Audi for so long [since 2008 in the DTM], I’d got­ten com­fort­able and wrapped up in the ‘Audi bub­ble’. I never had to go out and chase a deal for the fol­low­ing season as it was al­ways planned out for me. Each win­ter I al­ways knew what I was do­ing the next year. Per­haps be­ing like that I’d let a few of my con­tacts slip over the years, so it was a real cul­ture shock to go into last win­ter with no plan at all.”

Jarvis fin­ished his Audi ca­reer with vic­tory in the WEC fi­nale in Bahrain, giv­ing the In­gol­stadt giant the fit­ting send-off it de­served. He also cel­e­brated sec­ond in the world cham­pi­onship. Audi had high hopes for its 2017 R18 evo­lu­tion, a car Jarvis main­tains could have won the world crown. Now it’ll likely never see a race­track. But, back to that phone call. “When I was look­ing through my op­tions I spoke to nu­mer­ous

pro­to­type teams, in both LMP1 and P2,” adds Jarvis. “I had some good talks and was of­fered some ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but none of them were the long-term so­lu­tion I wanted. None of them were re­ally sus­tain­able moves.

“GT rac­ing, at the mo­ment, is the more sus­tain­able ca­reer path, much more so than pro­to­types. It’s sad to say, but true. If you look at LMP1 now there are so few man­u­fac­tur­ers – just Porsche and Toyota – if one of those were to drop out, there aren’t the pri­va­teer en­tries be­neath it to sus­tain the class. In GT rac­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ers are there and there’s strength in num­bers.

“Peo­ple pre­sumed I’d only be in­ter­ested in pro­to­types af­ter my Audi con­tract, but I looked at ev­ery­thing, and ac­tu­ally, Bent­ley was one of the first calls I made.”

Jarvis con­tacted Bent­ley Mo­tor­sport boss Brian Gush, booked a ticket to Crewe, and went to see the GT op­er­a­tion and M-sport. The re­sult­ing talks net­ted him an­other man­u­fac­turer deal. It’s not of the Go­liath stan­dards Audi’s was, but it’s far from a sec­ond-rate ar­range­ment.

Jarvis is now a Bent­ley Boy, set to con­test the Blanc­pain En­durance Se­ries and se­lected other en­durance events aboard

a fac­tory Con­ti­nen­tal GT3. And it’s a deal he’s ex­cited about. “Bent­ley is the per­fect fit for me,” says Jarvis. “Hav­ing seen the op­er­a­tion and the en­ergy and re­sources that go into these GT cars, it’s just bril­liant. The his­tory of Bent­ley isn’t lost on me ei­ther. The Le Mans-win­ning [2003] Speed 8 is still prob­a­bly my favourite race car of all time. It’s so good you could prob­a­bly wheel it out onto the Le Mans grid now and it wouldn’t look out of place. It’s a brand with a lot of her­itage, and high am­bi­tions, which suits me bril­liantly.”

Jarvis made his Bent­ley debut in the Bathurst 12 Hours event in Aus­tralia ear­lier this month, and it was far from a smooth first out­ing.

“Be­fore Bathurst my to­tal mileage in the Con­ti­nen­tal was 20 laps in about four de­grees and pour­ing rain at An­gle­sey,” he ex­plains. “There­fore you could say that my first proper lap in the GT3 was at Bathurst, which was pretty daunt­ing. It may even have been the most daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of my ca­reer to date.

“It’s such a unique track, un­like any other I’ve driven, and there were peo­ple throw­ing cars into the wall left, right and cen­tre. There were a few mo­ments when I sat in the garage think­ing ‘is this ac­tu­ally sen­si­ble for me to have my first run here?’

“Things were made worse by the fact we had fuel pump is­sues, which lim­ited our prac­tice mileage.”

De­spite the early trou­bles, Jarvis in­sists the Aus­tralian event was a worth­while ex­er­cise, and helped him learn both the new car and his team­mates. Jarvis will form an all-bri­tish part­ner­ship with Guy Smith and Steven Kane this year, and the trio be­gan their part­ner­ship at Bathurst, fin­ish­ing on the over­all podium.

“Bathurst was great as it gave me 12 hours of pure com­pe­ti­tion with the team, and with my team-mates, and that’s where you learn the most about peo­ple,” says Jarvis.

“I learnt about the op­er­a­tions of the team, the at­mos­phere and the char­ac­ters. Be­ing part of an all-bri­tish driver line-up, for a Bri­tish team with a Bri­tish-built car is very spe­cial, and it’s also very easy to set­tle in to.

“The Bri­tish sense of hu­mour is great, and it makes the at­mos­phere dif­fer­ent from work­ing with a for­eign team. There’s so much ban­ter and p*ss-tak­ing, and that re­ally helps to lighten the at­mos­phere and al­le­vi­ate pres­sure. Dur­ing prac­tice we didn’t get a sin­gle lap within about three sec­onds of the fastest car’s times, but no­body pan­icked. We just pulled to­gether and made a plan.”

That plan was sim­ply to stay on the lead lap. Due to the tur­bu­lent na­ture of the Bathurst race, the safety car is a reg­u­lar track vis­i­tor, mean­ing the gaps in­evitably close up when it ap­pears. If you’re on the lead lap at any given mo­ment, you still have a chance.

The trio even went as far as lead­ing the race with two hours to run, be­fore drop­ping back to third place when sen­sor is­sues re­stricted the car’s per­for­mance over the clos­ing stages.

Re­gard­less, the 12 hours gave Jarvis plenty of time to ad­just to his new of­fice.

“It did take some time get­ting used to driv­ing the GT3 hav­ing come from the diesel LMP1,” he ex­plains.

“In pro­to­types ev­ery­thing is real fin­ger­tip stuff and you have huge power and huge aero. Through the slow-speed cor­ners there’s not much dif­fer­ence with the GT3, it’s more learn­ing whether the car needs to be stopped on the apex to ro­tate or whether you can push right through with power. But it’s the high-speed turns that took me longer to trust it.

“The GT3 has a sur­pris­ing amount of down­force, but it has more weight and nat­u­rally more roll than an LMP1, so it moves about a lot more. It was dif­fi­cult to judge whether the car was reach­ing the limit of grip or sur­pass­ing it at times. It’s about get­ting that feel­ing back and de­vel­op­ing my un­der­stand­ing of what the car can do and where its lim­its are.

“My plan was just to stay con­sis­tent and stay out of trou­ble. I’m con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties, and I knew I didn’t have to prove any­thing.”

Bathurst was a bit of an anom­aly for Jarvis and for Bent­ley. As a stand-alone event it was the per­fect warm-up for the team and its new re­cruit. But when the pres­sure is on in cham­pi­onship sit­u­a­tions, Jarvis knows he ac­tu­ally has ev­ery­thing to prove, all over again.

“I’ve been there and done it with Audi, and while that stage of my ca­reer has ended, I see this as a new one,” he adds. “This is a con­tin­u­a­tion of my ca­reer, not a step back­wards.

“I’ve proved my­self against the best sportscar driv­ers in the world, but now I’m com­ing into a new world, where there are dif­fer­ent best driv­ers. What I’ve done be­fore won’t mat­ter to them, once I’m on the grid I’m just an­other car they’re aim­ing to beat. My rep­u­ta­tion means noth­ing here as it’s a Gt-driv­ers’ world, and I get the chance to show that I can fight with the best here. Peo­ple will only judge me based on my re­sults in GT rac­ing, so it’s up to me to prove my­self and show that I can win, just like I did in LMP1.” ■

Bathurst marked Jarvis’s debut in the Con­ti­nen­tal

Oliver Jarvis is now a Bent­ley Boy in GT3

Bent­ley’s all-bri­tish Blanc­pain GT crew (L-R) Steven Kane, Oliver Jarvis and Guy Smith

Bent­ley GT3S han­dle dif­fer­ently to LMP1

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