The 31-year-old Brit in the midst of what has been the most exciting World Endurance Championship season since the championship’s return is pressed for time. It’s his mum’s birthday and he needs to get her a present, and quickly.
To Oliver Jarvis’s relief, he doesn’t have to trawl round the shops. ’All she wants is euros so I just need a cashpoint. You get a much better exchange rate in France.’ Now that’s what you call present shopping made easy…
Oliver has come straight to France from Shanghai. There, at the weekend in the penultimate round of the WEC, he and teammates Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval brought their Audi R18 e-tron quattro home in fourth spot after managing to fill the mirrors of the leading Porsche 919s – while it was wet at least.
WEC 2015 has been the year the old masters ended the new boys’ extraordinary dominance in endurance racing over the past decade and more. But not before some incredibly close racing, as the video we shared a little while back so brilliantly captures…
With one race to go (Bahrain, 21 November), there’s still a chase on for driver’s points with the No.1 Audi team, but Porsche has the manufacturer’s title sewn up now, an amazing result in just its second WEC comeback year.
Oliver Jarvis might not be in the title race – not this year at least – but he’s looking forward to the final round and a private battle with Goodwood favourite Anthony Davidson, in the Toyota, to be best placed Brit finisher. He is also upbeat about Audi’s chances next year, as he told us when we caught up with him in France at the launch of the new Audi R8 road car. Mum’s present sorted, the affable Audi star (and McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year for 2005) is happy to field our questions. And the first one really does write itself…
How are you going to beat Porsche?
That’s a great question. For it to happen we need to improve our car. We have made a huge step forward this year but it’s been hidden a little by the fact that Porsche has also made a step forward. Porsche came into WEC with a clean sheet of paper; we had already gone down a certain route based on the rules at the time. The rules then slightly moved. We invested heavily in flywheel hybrid technology, now Porsche has batteries and Toyota super-capacitors, and there looks to be an advantage there.
So the Audi LMP1 car for 2016 is going to have to be completely different?
It will be a pretty big change, a complete overhaul rather than an evolution. It will have a very different look because of the way the aerodynamics are evolving, but the technology? Sorry but am still sworn to secrecy! (Rumour has it Audi will stick with diesel but move from flywheel to battery-storage, ed).
Are you confident of a quick Audi comeback?
Definitely. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. The goal is to be on Porsche’s level or quicker from the first race next year. After the success that Audi has had, we are just not happy with second and third. It’s not an arrogant thing, it’s just that winning is ingrained in Audi.
Is it good for motor racing to have such rivalry between two companies in the same group?
I think it is good for everyone. The first rule in motor sport is beat your team-mate and you can apply that to Porsche and Audi. If anything the rivalry is intensified.
People say the 2015 WEC season was one of the best ever; did it pan out the way you were expecting?
I think the racing exceeded all expectations. There were some fantastic on-track battles. My highlight was a podium in Austin. Shanghai last weekend was very good for me personally too. In the wet we could make up the deficit to Porsche but when the track dried they were simply too quick for us. Overall it hasn’t been the year we expected. We started out believing we would win more races. But congratulations to Porsche, they have done a great job.
Have you enjoyed driving the new R8 road car?
It blew me away. I am very impressed by the power (610PS) and the way it drives. I like the direct steering, with good feedback, and the sound! You drive into the villages downshifting with the crackle and pop from the exhaust.
How important is it that a supercar is developed alongside the racing version (the R8 GT3 was developed in parallel with the R8 road car)?
I think hugely important. I have done a few races in the R8 GT3 car and it has a lot in common with the road car. A lot of companies go motor racing as a marketing tool and there’s no road car relevance, whereas a lot of Audi’s technology trickles down from the racing cars. There are laser headlights on the racing cars for instance and they are now available on the R8 road car.
How much of a car nut are you?
Not so much a car nut but I always wanted to be a racing driver. I grew up supporting Nigel Mansell and Williams. For me F1 was at its best then, the cars were incredible to watch. The whole family used to sit down together on a Sunday for the grand prix. That’s when I fell in love with motor sport. I started in karts and when I was 14 or 15 I thought, hang on, I could actually make a career of this. It didn’t need to be Formula 1, the important thing was that I could race and get paid for it.
What are your ambitions for 2016?
Well the first has to be to win Le Mans. Le Mans is just so special. I would like to look back on a career with a Le Mans victory and a world championship. I have raced at Le Mans five times and had two LMP1 podiums, but the plan is to stand on the top step. And I want to drive at Goodwood! I was going to drive the R8 up the hill at FoS this year but it never happened. I can’t believe I have never driven up the hill.
What would be your FoS weapon of choice?
Got to be an old F1 car. The 1994 Williams. Also I’d love to drive Hannu Mikkola’s S1 Quattro up the hill. I imagine it’s a bit of an animal and not the most forgiving, so I should perhaps drive it first somewhere where’s there more open space…
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Your first car? Red Peugeot 309. No, not a GTi, A 1.9 turbodiesel!
Cars at home today? Audi A7 and Q5. Both diesels!
Petrol or diesel? Diesel. I am sticking with it. I wouldn’t discount an R8 diesel. I’d buy one. As for the LMP1 car, because of Audi’s heritage at Le Mans it is important to get back out and win with a diesel. It’s still relevant.
Manual or paddleshift? I love a manual gearbox but at the same time I drive to the airport a lot and really appreciate an automatic when stuck on the M25.
Best race moment? Winning the Sebring 12 hours in the Audi LMP1, my first win at such an iconic place.
Best road car drive? Italy, up through the mountains. I like a mountain pass and nice views.
One car cost no object? It would be nice to have that old Williams F1 car in the garage and be able to take it out to a circuit every now and again. Twenty laps and you’d be exhausted! A road car…the new R8 (he would say that wouldn’t he… ed). I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a supercar at the weekend and a car you could easily drive to work every day during the week. I like that.