Ben Keating reveals challenge adapting to Corvette C8.R

Keating will team up with Nicky Catsburg and Nico Varrone in the WEC, but says the technique required to extract pace from the C8.R is not like anything he had encountered previously.

The 51-year-old Texan has become one of the most highly respected Bronze-rated drivers of the past 10 years, adapting well and winning races in Prototypes while also starring in GT cars such as the Dodge Viper, Ferrari 488, Ford GT, Porsche 911 RSR and, most recently, the Aston Martin Vantage. Last year, he and Marco Sorensen won the GTE Am class of the WEC in TF Sport’s Aston Martin.

But Keating admitted that his first test in the Corvette in Bahrain last November left him puzzled.

“I got to do 10 laps exactly; we were more focused on testing Silver [-rated drivers] and watching Nico go fast around Bahrain,” he said.

“When I first got in the car at Bahrain, I know looking at it that it’s a mid-engine car, so I kept trying to think about how I’m supposed to drive this car. Am I supposed to drive it like a Ford or like the Porsche or like the Ferrari, those being other mid-engine cars?

“I will say that I was quite disappointed with my performance in Bahrain. I came back and looked at the data and realized that you drive this car completely differently than any of those. So while I was leaning on my experience of how to go fast in all those other cars, I wasn’t able to find it.


«Then fast-forward another couple of months and we went testing at Sebring. It was incredible. The speed came pretty quick for me, I would say. I felt very comfortable in the car, and I feel like I made some huge steps in learning how this car likes to be driven. It’s significantly different than all the others.

«For me personally, it’s taken a little bit to get used to. I’ve been in a turbo car for the last couple of years, and the big V8 has a lot more torque instantly at low RPMs than having to wait for that big turbo to wind up, so you don’t have that lag which takes a little while to get used to.

«The year before, I was in the Porsche RSR and again it doesn’t have the same level of torque that a big V8 has. They all have slightly different handling characteristics. 

“After Bahrain I was worried, but after Sebring I’m excited! I made the transition and was really happy with my performance after the test. After that, I’ve been testing in the LMP2 there as well, and I feel there is a decent crossover between the two cars at this particular track. I’m ready.”

Varrone, who last year raced a Ferrari 488 in the European Le Mans Series, concurred with his veteran teammate that the Corvette is very different.

“I did some laps in Bahrain and Sebring, and I was really comfortable with the car,” said the 22-year-old Argentinean. “I personally enjoyed driving the Ferrari GTE, but with the Corvette I feel there is something special in the first moments. It suits really well my driving style.

“As Ben said, I was trying to use all my experience with the Ferrari and put it in the Corvette, and it wasn’t working on the first outing I did. I was really struggling with low-speed corners with some oversteer.

«I worked with the engineers on the data, and they told me it was a completely different way of driving. Once I started working on it through the laps and over the runs, I really improved on it.

“I have to say it’s a different concept to drive it and you have to get used to it. And when I got to Sebring, I already had this experience from Bahrain and I got used to it. It wasn’t a big challenge for me because I got used to it really quickly.

“Because of my driving style, I liked the way of driving it. But it’s really different to other cars I’ve driven in the past.”

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