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Published: 4/17/2023

Corvette Racing Powers to Portimao Victory

Author: THE BLOCK

Photos: CHEVROLET

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Corvette Racing claimed a hard-fought GTE Am class win during Sunday's 6 Hours of Portimao at Portugal's Algarve International Circuit, giving the American outfit victories in the first two races of the young FIA World Endurance Championship season.

 

L to R: Corvette Racing drivers Nico Varrone, Ben Keating and Nicky Catsburg celebrate their second consecutive FIA WEC victory.

 

After a dominant performance in the WEC's season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring at Florida's Sebring International Raceway, the Team Chevy trio of Ben Keating, Nico Varrone and Nicky Catsburg opened the European portion of the schedule with Keating qualifying the No. 33 Corvette C8.R on the class pole.

Keating rode in the third spot on a worn set of tires for much of his first stint on the 15-turn, 2.891-mile circuit before the Corvette Racing crew provided him with fresh rubber and a quick stop to move him up to second.

The Texan driver Keating pitted at the two-hour mark and handed the reins to Argentinian Nico Varrone, who was forced to contest with a great deal of traffic, but still had moved into second position by his first stop. The Corvette Racing crew was flawless once again and Varrone eventually took over the class lead.

 

The No. 33 Corvette C8.R has been the class of the GTE Am field so far in 2023.

The Dutchman Nicky Catsburg then jumped in the car with just under two hours remaining and engaged in a ferocious battle with Ferrari over the race's closing stages. Both cars pitted with 50 minutes remaining, one lap after the race's lone safety-car period concluded. The Corvette team provided lightning-quick service, which combined with Catsburg's quick out lap, gave the No. 33 Corvette C8.R a 10-second advantage.

However, that lead soon dwindled and Catsburg did a masterful job of defending over the race's final five laps to take the checkered flag by a mere 0.260 seconds.

"Some of the traffic made it extra interesting, I would say, in the last few laps," Catsburg said. "But it's a mega result for us and unexpected. I really struggled to match the pace that (the Ferrari) was doing but somehow we managed. The team was amazing today. Every pit stop, we gained six or seven seconds. This is an amazing feeling."

Catsburg was hounded all the way to the checkered flag in Portugal.

The first two races of this year's seven-event calendar have displayed both masterful pit work and driving by the Corvette team, with the Portugal race also featuring major drama near the end.

"It was a great day for Corvette Racing," said GM Sports Car Racing Program Manager Laura Wontrop Klauser. "The team did a phenomenal job, the drivers did a phenomenal job, everyone hit their marks and working through it with great pit stops. Nicky fighting and defending the lead at the end was so exciting to watch. We're all incredibly pleased with today's results and the start of our first season in GTE Am with two victories for the Corvette C8.R."

Based on the team's flawless performance so far, more victories are still to come.

The Corvette Racing team has been nearly perfect in WEC all season.

 

Keep watching The BLOCK for more on Corvette, Chevrolet Performance and all motorsports disciplines.