Corvette Racing is competing in the GTE-Am Class in the FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship) for the first time this year. Last year they competed with their C8.R in the GTE Pro Class. However, that class ended at the completion of the 2022 FIA WEC Season. So the only option left for Corvette Racing if they wanted to continue to run in the FIA WEC was to swap to the GTE Am(amateur) Class which meant a change of driver line-up to include at least one amateur.
Ben Keating, head of the Keating Auto Group, which includes 28 vehicle dealerships in Texas, has been racing ever since his wife gave him a two-day track day as a Christmas present in 2006. Ben is the current FIA WEC Amateur Class champion, having won the 2022 championship in the #33 Aston Martin Vantage. Ben has also competed in Dodge Vipers, Porsches, the Ford GT, and an LMP2 Class car. So he is vastly experienced, quick, consistent, and most importantly, a Bronze-rated driver.
Two new co-drivers will join Ben. Platinum-rated Nicky Catsburg is stepping up from third driver to be the new lead driver, having just competed at the long-distance events for Corvette Racing. The third driver in the lineup is Argentine youngster Nico Varrone who is Silver rated but recently won the LMP3 Class in the IMSA WeatherTech Series opener – the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
Keating spoke to LSX Magazine during a recent video call with reporters, and this is what he had to say:
“I’ve said over and over again how excited I am as an American to drive for an American team in an American brand, and I’m excited to be racing in a brand that I sell. Not only will we be racing this American brand with an American team worldwide, but the first race is in the USA, which is special. There is one race in the United States for the World Endurance Championship, and clearly, we want to show well on our home soil. As a team, Corvette Racing has had thousands of laps around there during the last 25 years, so I expect the team, the car, the drivers, and everyone is going to be well-tuned up and ready to go for this race,” Keating says.
Keating went on to give his thoughts on his initial testing and seat time behind the wheel of the Corvette Racing C8.R. “My first laps in the Corvette were at the WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain, and it was different enough there that I left thinking that I had a lot to learn about this car. Then we did the test at Sebring, and it was a totally different experience. That left me thinking, ‘Wow… this is a really special car.’ Not only is it special from my standpoint of racing it, but the performance level around Sebring is awesome,” shares Keating.
“Sebring is unlike anywhere else in the world — very flat, very bumpy, and very different from a typical FIA circuit that we go to in WEC. This is not that; this is an old, historic circuit, and the Corvette performed amazingly well at the test. It set my expectations really high for the race. It handles the bumps extremely well, and it’s very comfortable to drive. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an easy car to drive around Sebring because it’s such a physical track. It will beat you up a little bit. But the Corvette is such a delight to drive, and it’s easy on the driver,” continues Keating.
“This also is the first race for me to do with Nico and Nicky. I’m super excited about my teammates. We’ve all gotten along exceedingly well. There are no egos. No one is out there trying to prove what they’re capable of doing as an individual. It’s a great feeling to be great teammates – not just for this race but the whole World Endurance Championship. I couldn’t imagine having a better group of teammates going into the season, and I’m super excited to go racing with these guys,” Keating concludes.
The #33 Corvette Racing C8.R will be racing at Sebring International Raceway on Friday, 17th of March, in the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring race, which is the first round of this season’s FIA World Endurance Championship.