OYAMA, Japan (Sept. 9, 2023) – Corvette Racing’s Ben Keating put the team’s No. 33 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R on the GTE Am pole position Saturday ahead of Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji – the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Keating, who is teaming with Nicky Catsburg and Nico Varrone, set a best lap of 1:38.338 (103.769 mph) in the championship-winning C8.R. Corvette Racing clinched the GTE Am Drivers and Teams titles in the last WEC round at Monza, Italy and is seeking its fourth victory of the season.
On Saturday, Keating was just 0.035 seconds clear of Sarah Bovy in the No. 85 Porsche of the Iron Dames team. The top half of the class was very close with the six fastest GTE Am cars separated by just 0.673 seconds around the 2.84-mile, 16-turn circuit at the base of Mount Fuji. Keating claimed his third pole position of the season and eighth in the class since the start of 2021 – more than any other GTE Am driver.
It was difficult for the full field of 36 cars to get a read on the track during the three practice sessions. Friday’s opening practice and Saturday’s final practice were in mixed conditions with periods of rain and dry weather. That left Friday’s second practice as the only fully dry running ahead of qualifying.
Still, Corvette Racing engineers made good use of each session with the conditions uncertain heading into qualifying with a variety of tuning and chassis changes in hopes of finding a good balance in the Corvette for not just the 15 minutes but also Sunday’s six-hour race.
As in previous races, the C8.R will race at Fuji with a level of rewards weight due to its successes earlier this year: 15 kilograms for winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 15 kilograms for leading the championship, plus 10 extra kilograms added to the car’s minimum weight ahead of the previous round at Monza for a total of 40 kilograms – 10 less than at the Italian round.
The Six Hours of Fuji is scheduled for 11 a.m. JST on Sunday / 10 p.m. ET on Saturday. MotorTrend and MotorTrend Plus will provide both live television and streaming coverage, as will the FIA WEC app. Radio Le Mans also will stream audio coverage Sunday’s race.
BEN KEATING, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R – POLE-WINNER: “I don’t know why (race engineer) Tyler Neff has to wait until qualifying to give us the really good setup! I went more than two seconds per lap faster in qualifying today than I have at any other time this weekend. It’s because the setup is that much better. It was so confidence-inspiring. I could really push the car without losing grip, even on a damp track. I don’t know what they did, but the car was really nice to drive. I wasn’t expecting to be on the pole. It’s always so much fun to be that close with Sarah. She did a good job. I thought I had a pretty good lap and then the team said she did a 1:38.3, and I came across the line at a 38.3 and not knowing who was going to be in front. It was super, super close. Last year being with TF Sport and being teammates with Satoshi Hoshino in the Aston Martin… this is his home track and where he lives. I’m really happy for him to come in P3. It was a little bit of a reunion at tech after qualifying seeing Sarah and Hoshino down there. It’s a lot of fun. This season continues to be a fairy-tale season. Every time you think it can’t get any better, it keeps getting better. I’m just trying to soak up and enjoy every last minute.
“It was exciting before we left. They asked me what I thought, and I thought it would be the best thing to go out on a drying wet tire. To me, the frontstraight looked wet. We watched every car around me put on slicks, and so the engineers made the decision to go with slicks from the get-go. When I got around on the back half of the track, it was a lot drier than it was on the frontstraight. I came on the radio and congratulated them on making the right call. It was a matter of bringing them up to temperature slowly and not over-driving in the damp conditions. But you only have a 15-minute window to get them up to temperature and take advantage of the peak of the tire to get those extra few tenths.
“We made some big sweeping changes on the car. We had been chasing it a little bit. I give the engineers such a hard time because it seems like it’s the same at every race we go to! We’re not exactly sure where we are, but when we get to qualifying I have a really, really strong setup on the car. We made some really big changes and they got it really right. The car felt really good. I felt like I could really attack the corners without feeling like I’m walking on eggshells. Especially in Sector Three, you have to be able to have confidence going through there if you’re going to be fast. It’s the first time I’ve felt that here, and the car felt really good.”
NICKY CATSBURG, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R: “As always, it was Ben and Sarah putting on a good show. We had to wait until her last lap to be finished, and Ben did an amazing job. To be fair, I didn’t predict him to be on pole because we were struggling quite a bit in the mixed conditions, but he once again delivered! I’m super happy with that.
“It’s always nice in Fuji. The location at Mount Fuji is an awesome place and Japan is one of my favorite places to go. So I always love coming to Fuji, and we’re looking forward to racing here. We’ve been struggling a little bit with the weather conditions as everyone else has. It’s always in between… wet-dry-wet-dry… We haven’t really gotten any valuable data yet, so it will be interesting in the race. You’re right below the mountain and right on the edge of where it starts. It wasn’t supposed to rain today and it’s been wet the whole day because the clouds just keep sitting here. It’s weird and difficult to prepare for this. You go with certain predictions and they just do whatever they want.”
NICO VARRONE, NO. 33 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C8.R: “This is really cool. Being in Japan for the first time, the people are great and the culture is so different. I’m really enjoying it and getting used to it. The track is really fun to drive. It’s really tricky; almost all the last sector is difficult to find where the lines are, so it is tough. But it is better than I expected. We have a great car and we worked through all the sessions. And now Ben has taken pole! It’s been really good so far, and we’re all very happy.”
2023 FIA World Endurance Championship – GTE Am (After five of seven events)
- Ben Keating/Nicky Catsburg/Nico Varrone – 145
- Michelle Gatting/Rahel Frey/Sarah Bovy – 67
- Ahmad Al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood/Michael Dinan – 65
- Christian Ried/Julien Andlauer/Mikkel Pedersen – 60
- Benjamin Barker/Michael Wainwright/Riccardo Pera – 54
- No. 33 Corvette Racing – 145
- No. 85 Iron Dames – 67
- No. 25 ORT by TF – 65
- No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing – 60
- No. 86 GR Racing – 54
CORVETTE RACING AT Fuji: By the Numbers
- 1: As in one team, one manufacturer and one model of car for 25 years of racing: Corvette Racing, Chevrolet and the Chevrolet Corvette
- 3: Number of GTE Am wins in four FIA WEC races this season for Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nico Varrone with the No. 33 Corvette C8.R
- 13: Hours difference between Fuji and Detroit in the Eastern Time Zone. That means the race will begin Sunday morning in Japan but late Saturday night Eastern Time
- 14: Manufacturer Championships for Chevrolet and Corvette Racing since 2001
- 27: Tracks at which Corvette Racing has won races – Baltimore, Charlotte Motor Speedway, COTA, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park/Mosport, Daytona, Detroit, Houston, Laguna Seca, Le Mans, Lime Rock, Long Beach, Miami, Mid-Ohio, Monza, Portimão, Portland, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Sonoma, St. Petersburg, Texas, Trois Rivieres, Utah, VIR, Washington DC and Watkins Glen
- 34: Number of drivers for Corvette Racing since 1999. Ben Keating and Nico Varrone joined that list with their participation – and victory – in the 1,000 Miles of Sebring for the World Endurance Championship
- 40: Kilograms of success ballast for the Corvette C8.R at Fuji – 15 for winning Le Mans, 15 for leading the GTE Am championship and 10 additional kilograms added to the car’s minimum weight by the organizers
- 127: Victories worldwide for Corvette Racing – 115 in North America, nine at Le Mans and three in the FIA WEC
- 280: Event starts by Corvette Racing since 1999
- 359,884.24: Total number of racing miles completed by Corvette Racing since its inception. To put that in perspective, Corvette Racing is more than halfway to the distance traveled by Apollo 13 – the longest manned spaceflight in history: 622,268 miles. That means Corvette Racing has raced to the moon and more than halfway back!
Corvette Racing at Fuji (wins in bold)
No. 64 Corvette C8.R: Tommy Milner/Nick Tandy – 5th in GTE Pro
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
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