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CORVETTE RACING AT SEBRING: WEC and IMSA ANTONIO GARCIA Zoom Transcript

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CORVETTE RACING AT SEBRING: WEC and IMSA ANTONIO GARCIA Zoom Transcript



Media Q&A with Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, Nico Varrone

CORVETTE RACING AT SEBRING: WEC Zoom Transcript
Media Q&A with Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, Nico Varrone

Corvette Racing FIA World Endurance Championship drivers Nicky Catsburg, Ben
Keating and Nico Varrone answered questions today from media members ahead
of this weekend’s WEC Prologue at Sebring International Raceway. They will
open the season in the 1,000 Miles of Sebring on Friday, March 17 in the No.
33 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R as part of the GTE Am field.
Full transcript:

NICKY CATSBURG, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
AFTER WINNING LAST YEAR IN THE SEBRING 12 HOURS, HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO
REPEAT THAT IN THE WEC ROUND?
“Last year was super nice, winning the race. I also remember the year
before, we were incredibly close in winning it that year as well but a
late-race crash with another competitor took us out of the lead. I cannot
wait to drive the GTE-spec car again. I personally like it a little bit
better than the GT3-spec. I cannot wait to try and win it without ABS; in
general I just enjoy driving the GTE car a lot, so hopefully we can repeat
that win from last year.”


THERE’S ONLY AN HOUR OR SO OF DARKNESS IN THE SEBRING RACING, BUT CAN YOU GO
THROUGH THE CHALLENGES OF RACING IN THE DARK AT SEBRING AND OTHER PLACES?
“Some places are more difficult than others, and I would say Sebring is one
of the more difficult ones. Specifically, kind of Turn 10 through Turn 14
gets really, really dark and there’s one part where you really struggle to
see how close to the outside of the track you are. Navigating there with
traffic makes it very, very difficult because you just don’t see so much. We
have great lights on the car but it’s not nearly enough to really see what’s
going on. Then you have a lot of bright headlights in your rearview mirrors
constantly flashing, which makes it very, very hard to see where you’re
going. I must say that doing it more often does help you get better at it
and to remain more calm.
“For example in the Sebring 12 Hours, you would kind of keep one driver for
the end of the race and that driver would then also do more in the night
practice so he is more prepared for finishing the race in the dark. I would
say it’s the most difficult part of the race to do. If I had to compare it,
the (Nürburgring) Nordschleife is very dark but somehow not as dark as
Sebring, which is hard to imagine! The same goes for Le Mans. I always find
that relatively easy in the dark. Spa-Francorchamps is more difficult again.
I don’t know really why this is, but some tracks are just more difficult in
the dark than others. Sebring has a lot of bumps everywhere. Already in the
daylight it is difficult to see sometimes where you are, let alone in the
dark. So Sebring is definitely difficult.”

ON BEING THE TEAM LEADER AS THE MOST EXPERIENCED DRIVER IN THE CORVETTE.
“It’s definitely going to be different. I was always the third driver at
Corvette so I was filling in for the few endurance races – Daytona, Sebring,
Petit Le Mans and Le Mans. So this is the first time I’m doing a full season
with Corvette Racing with two new teammates. I feel like I’m the one with
the most experience in the car, which is a first for me. It’s definitely
going to be a change. But I feel with this team and the support I have from
my teammates in the past years, I hope I can do the same job now for Ben and
Nico. Ben is incredibly experienced in these races and Nico – I don’t want
to raise the expectations too much! – but he was nothing but amazing in the
tests that we did. I don’t feel like they will need too much help from me.
It is a bit of a change for me, but we will be fine.”

BEN KEATING, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
HAS YOUR ANTICIPATION LEVEL FOR THIS RACE CONTINUED TO BUILD OVER THE MONTHS
AND WEEKS?
“No, not at all. I would even say it’s greater than it’s ever been for
several reasons. One is that it’s obviously my first race with Corvette
Racing, and that’s enough anticipation on its own. Then in addition to that,
it’s the only WEC race that is on home soil in the US, which puts a little
more importance up there for me. Lastly, I would say that last year doing
the double between the Aston Martin and the LMP2 in the 12-hour race, it was
one of the most difficult and physical endeavors I’ve ever done. I’m hoping
I prepare a little bit better for it this year. But I still have a little
bit of that anticipation for how I will feel in the 12-hour. I’m not worried
that much for the WEC race. So there are a lot of different reasons for all
the anticipation building up.”

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE IN TESTING PREPARATIONS WITH THIS CAR AND ADAPTING TO THE
C8.R?
“I got to do a few laps on the Rookie Test Day after Bahrain. I got to do 10
laps exactly; we were more focused on testing Silvers and watching Nico go
fast around Bahrain. 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 (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.”

AT THE SEBRING TEST, HOW MUCH TIME DID YOU GET IN THE CAR?
“I don’t remember a specific lap count. The three of us were all there, and
we all got quite a few laps.”

TALKING ABOUT THE PROGRESSION OF THE GTE FORMULA SINCE YOU STARTED RACING IN
GTE AND HOW THE CARS HAVE MOVED ON.
“I’ll say this specifically for GTE Am, because that’s what is important to
me and that’s what makes this class special. As all of you are aware, in
every GTE Am car it requires one Bronze, one Silver and one either Gold or
Platinum (driver). What I love about the GTE Am class and racing the GTE car
is that it doesn’t have ABS, as Nicky started talking about. It really
separates the Bronze drivers between those who can drive well without ABS
and those who can’t or struggle with it. The difference in laptime gets to
be larger based on the skill that you acquire over time. That’s one big
piece of it for me, specifically in GTE Am. I don’t think you saw that big
of a difference in GTE Pro. The thing I’ve loved about it for years… what
really got to me about racing in GT3 is that there were all these BoP
changes all the time. You never knew if you were going to have a chance or
not to do well in the race. I didn’t like spending dollars, and blood, sweat
and tears at a track not knowing if we weren’t going to have a chance.
“What I really love about the GTE Am setup has been that all of the BoP is
set off the Pro class from the previous year. We’re racing a previous year’s
car so we rarely get BoP changes in GTE Am, and they allow the rewards
weight or success ballast to level the playing field. Clearly if you get 40
kilos in the car, it’s going to cost you a half-second a lap at most of the
tracks we go to, but you can still have a chance and you can have a
competitive car. Lastly, I love racing with a confidential tire. The
Michelin confidentials are just that good. It’s so nice to race with a tire
that has been built and designed around your car and different
circumstances. I’m going to be sad to see it go, is my answer. I’m sad to
see GTE go. For me personally, it doesn’t have anything to do with the GT3
cars. It just has to do with the class. I think you’re taking something away
when you add ABS and every driver out there can be a hero in every brake
zone.”

YOUR TIME WITH TF SPORT THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WHILE MOVING ON TO CORVETTE
RACING.
“That team is special. They are great people. That’s hard to walk away from.
It’s hard to walk away from that much success… second place at Le Mans and
second place in the championship (in 2021) and then a win at Le Mans and
winning the championship in the second year. Clearly we were on a roll. But
I pay for all this by selling cars, and I don’t sell Aston Martins. I’ve got
nothing bad to say about TF Sport other than they are not racing a
Corvette!”

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN RACING A GT CAR AND AN LMP2 CAR IN THE DARK?
“There are three major things that make Sebring difficult at night. One is
it is so flat that it’s hard to get a reference of what you’re looking at
it. Yes it’s dark, but it’s no more dark than any of the other tracks that
Nicky mentioned. It’s just really flat, which makes it hard to get a
reference of knowing exactly where to turn in, exactly where the brake point
is, exactly where the exit of the corner is and those kinds of things. The
other two things that come to mind is that we are going to have the largest
Hypercar field that we have ever seen in the World Endurance Championship.
My only protest in the Hypercar class is that the LED lights that they have
when they flash are unbelievably bright; they’re ridiculously bright and
they will blind you. It’s not as bad when you had three or four cars there
to contend with. Knowing that we are going to have eight or 10 of those
going around the track, it’s going to mean that you’re going to have one of
those behind you more often. That is going to make it quite a challenge.
“The other thing that isn’t thought of very often is that there are quite a
few pavement changes at Sebring. It goes from concrete to asphalt to sealed
concrete. It’s one thing when the bright Florida sun is shining down on all
the track, it can get really hot. But when the sun goes down, each one of
those pavement surfaces changes quite a bit. I think it changes the handling
of the car quite a bit. The only thing that matters obviously is the end of
the race. This is more of an issue on the IMSA side of things because of the
safety cars and more time in darkness. But I think it’s wise to do a lot of
setup work and a lot of running night practice specifically because you have
to make sure you have a car that is set up to do well when the sun goes down
because the track changes a lot more than you might think.”

ON WEC BANNING TIRE WARMERS FOR THIS YEAR WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE OF NOT HAVING
THEM IN IMSA. DOES THAT GIVE YOU AN EDGE OVER THE OTHER BRONZE DRIVERS?
“I hope so but we will see. I think everybody is going to be learning a lot,
and it’s a great question. It’s going to be one of the major challenges for
all teams in WEC. I feel like the confidential tire we are running is
designed to be heated, and it’s designed to be warm when you take off. I
think about at Le Mans in the night when it’s cool outside and you have a
safety car period or a long full-course yellow, it’s really, really
difficult to get those tires back up to temperature and back up to where
they’re hot enough that they are in the right operating window. Sometimes I
wasn’t able to get them there, especially at Le Mans where you have the long
straightaways. It can be a big challenge to get the heat back in the tires.
So when you’re starting off from ground zero of having an absolutely cold
tire, it will be a big challenge for all the teams to get those tires up to
temperature. Yes, I think it’s an advantage for me. I enjoy watching all the
European teams, especially in LMP2, come in for the 24 Hours of Daytona.
They’re all used to having tire warmers and they go out and spin in Turn
Three very often because they’re not used to what it takes to deal with cold
tires. I think it’s easier on the GT cars than the prototypes, but I think
we’re going to see quite a few more issues and incidents with all the
classes as everyone gets used to what it’s like to go out and deal with cold
tires. It’s a significant change. It’s interesting to me that we’re getting
this significant change in the last year of the class; maybe they’re saying
it’s the first year of Hypercar. It’s interesting. I think it’s less of an
issue, in my opinion, with the customer tire that a lot of the teams are
running. It might be less of an issue with the Goodyears on the LMP2. I don’t
know. I just know that my experience in the night at Le Mans would suggest
that it’s pretty difficult to go out on a confidential tire that’s cold. I
think we’ll see more teams running a softer compound, seeing if they can get
away with doing a double-stint on a softer compound just because that may be
the only tire they can figure out how to get heat in over a stint. It’s
going to be an interesting change for this season.”

NICO VARRONE, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
EXPECTATIONS FOR SEBRING IN YOUR FIRST RACE IN THE CORVETTE C8.R.
“First of all, this will be one of my best experiences ever. To be joining
Corvette Racing is a dream for me to be part of a factory team with Ben and
Nicky. It will be amazing. I’m really excited about it. I did some laps in
Bahrain and Sebring, and I was really comfortable with the car. 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. We have a really good lineup and a really good car. I hope we can
have a clean race, a clean weekend and take the most out of it.”

YOU COME OFF WINNING LMP3 AT DAYTONA, SO HOW DIFFICULT WILL IT BE LEARNING
ALL THE PROCEDURAL CHANGES LIKE FULL-COURSE YELLOWS AND CAUTIONS WITH THE
WEC VERSUS IMSA?
“That’s a good question. Last year, I raced in the ELMS and the 24 Hours of
Le Mans, so I have experience. I didn’t do a full season in WEC but doing
races in both championships helped me quite a lot. I don’t think it will be
a big change for me. I feel ready for the challenge. I think I will have to
learn a bit more on my side to know more about the car and to know what the
car likes, setup changes and other stuff that will be new for me. We have a
long season ahead and the Prologue this weekend, so that will help me a lot
to get up to speed and try to be the best version of myself.”

COMPARING AND CONTRASTING THE CORVETTE AND FERRARI GTE CAR THAT YOU’VE
DRIVEN BEFORE.
“I was really impressed at the Bahrain test. 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.”


Ryan Smith
Judy Kouba Dominick


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Media Q&A ahead of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for defending GTD PRO co-winner


CORVETTE RACING AT SEBRING: Antonio Garcia Zoom Transcript
Media Q&A ahead of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for defending GTD PRO co-winner


Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia was part of a media Zoom today to talk about next week’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. He will team with Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. The trio finished second in the GTD PRO class to open the season at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.


ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM
CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R
YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF GREAT HISTORY AT SEBRING. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT NEXT WEEK?
“Coming from a good race at Daytona, we should be up there. Corvette Racing always has had quite a bit of success in this race. We weren’t there (at Sebring) for the last (IMSA) test but we were there in December. Although it was with the new GT3 car, we still got some good information. It’s a new year and we had a lot of data to analyze from last year’s race. It was kind of a surprise for us to be that good, especially in the day. So I’m looking forward to getting back there. I’ve always loved this race. The Corvette fans will be out there, too. It’s always a great event for us as Corvette drivers and another one for me.”

BEFORE THE FIRST TIME YOU RACED AT SEBRING, WHAT DID A FELLOW DRIVER OR TEAM OWNER TELL YOU ABOUT THE TRACK? WAS IT THE BUMPS OR SOMETHING ELSE?
“It was 2006 or 2007… I definitely was younger! I think it was the bumps, mainly the trickier parts of the racetracks. Everyone tries to explain to you where to go and what to hit or not to hit, but it’s almost impossible to figure out what to expect until you do a few laps. It’s a tricky track to learn. After a few laps, it doesn’t feel like you can go around fast but then you get in a groove and everything comes easier. Now that I’ve done it for so many years, it feels like I know every single bump around the track. It’s much easier now.”


DO YOU APPRECIATE THAT THE TRACK HAS THIS KIND OF CHARACTER TO IT?
“I think you do. It’s the whole environment there. You start early in the morning almost with the sunrise for warmup. Most of the race is super-hot in the middle of the day and then you go straight into the night with a classic March sunset where you don’t see a thing going into Turn 17 and Turn Seven. Every single aspect of that race is unique. Even if at times it feels like it is undriveable, it’s one of my favorites if not my favorite race of the year.”


WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE TRACK AND YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART OF THE TRACK?
“At sunset and going into Turn 17 and Turn Seven, you’re hoping (the sun) gets in the clouds. With a full bright sky, you know it’s going to be really, really tough. At times, I got into the car with three hours to go so that means you get the sunset and then you go full into the dark. You need to pick the right visor and everything needs to be perfect. I’ve been in every single condition around there but for sure in the sunset – if it’s full bright – it’s tricky. That’s a time where you don’t want to be fighting too much with somebody or if traffic gets very, very tricky in those conditions because someone may not see you. It’s only 20-25 minutes, but it’s very, very tricky.”
“But I love the whole racetrack at night. When it’s full dark and you know it’s coming to the end of the race, the grip is usually back in the car. That’s the most joyful time of the race. No matter how tired you are, if you are in contention for the win then that’s when the whole magic of Sebring comes. That’s what we all remember… those last stints at Sebring and when you are in contention or winning the race.”

WHICH RACE IS TOUGHER TO GET ON THE PODIUM: DAYTONA 24 HOURS OR SEBRING 12 HOURS?
“I think probably Sebring is a bit tougher to get everything in the right spot. Everything is different. You finish in the dark, which is tough for everybody. Traffic is really bad at that point. For me, it seems like I’ve had more success at Sebring, but I think I would consider Sebring a little bit tougher than Daytona. If you have the pace at Daytona, it’s easier to pace yourself to be in contention at the end of the race. At Sebring, it’s not only pace. The weather changes more. You’re finishing in the dark, and you only run that for two hours. It’s a bit trickier, I think.”

Ryan Smith
Judy Kouba Dominick
 

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