WEC 'lucky' to avoid crash in Shanghai darkness, says Oliver Gavin
|By Jamie Klein||Wednesday, November 21st 2018, 16:53 GMT|
Corvette driver Oliver Gavin says the World Endurance Championship was "lucky" to avoid a major accident in the closing stages of last weekend's rain-soaked Shanghai race.
The Chinese round of the 2018/19 WEC superseason was a stop-start affair due to the weather, as persistent rainfall caused two lengthy red flag periods in the opening portion of the race.
Conditions eventually improved to allow full green-flag running, but the rain returned in the final hour just as dusk was starting to fall on the Shanghai track.
The safety car was called with 20 minutes remaining when the #17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 of Matevos Isaakyan crashed, but racing resumed for a final six minutes even though it was virtually dark.
Gavin, who shared the one-off Corvette GTE Pro entry with Tommy Milner and finished eighth in class, felt that resuming the race in such poor conditions was not the right call.
"The conditions at the end were just ridiculous," Gavin told Autosport.
"To be racing around a track in the dark that is not set up for the dark, in rain, and with the way with the big rainlights work now, all you can see is bright red mist.
"The last five laps were absolutely treacherous.
"We were all struggling to get the tyres warmed up again, and a lot of us were on tyres that were appropriate for the conditions an hour earlier, and then it started to rain harder.
"We'd seen earlier in the race when people got cold tyres, they crashed. So, I think the series was very lucky there was not a big accident at the end of the race."
Gavin explained that the situation was made worse by a lack of preparation for night racing at the circuit.
"Every track [where there is night racing] we go to now is set up with a certain amount of reflective tape on the side of the road," he said.
"There's a bit of guidance there - those keys and cues you need to race around a track at night.
"We also have night [practice] sessions. There were no night sessions here. The series has to think about how they run this race here.
"With the weather conditions as they were, was it wise to take the last restart?
"They could have finished behind the safety car. It risked an awful lot and it surprised me a lot, because this series is generally very safety-conscious, almost too far that way sometimes."