That didn't take long.
Corvette Racing's No. 33 Corvette C8.R entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship's GTE Am class raced to a fourth-place finish in the Six Hours of Monza, but it was more than good enough to clinch both the Drivers and Teams Championships. Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nico Varrone won drivers' honors in what was the Corvette Racing program’s first championship in the WEC.
The championship came in just the team's second year of WEC competition—and with two races still left on the schedule.
The No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR-19 driven by Christian Ried, Mikkel Pedersen and Julian Andlauer earned the GTE Am class victory on Sunday, but it was Corvette Racing claiming the bigger prize with its season title.
The overall win at Monza went to Toyota Gazoo Racing and the team of drivers Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi. It was the team's second win of the 2023 World Endurance Championship season
As for Corvette Racing, the win at Monza followed class wins earlier this season at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1000 Miles of Sebring and Six Hours of Portimao in Portugal. Corvette Racing clinched the championship after just five rounds of the seven-round season. The 2023 season still has a six-hour race at Fuji, Japan, on Sept. 10 and the season-ending eight-hour race at Bahrain on Nov. 4 left on the schedule.
"Congratulations to Ben Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nico Varrone on their championship in the first year for Corvette Racing in the World Endurance Championship’s GTE Am class,” said Mark Stielow, director, Chevrolet Motorsports Competition Engineering. “This was not an easy accomplishment despite the results this season. The strategy and execution by the entire Corvette Racing team—the drivers, the crew and the engineers—has been excellent throughout the season.
"This was a deep and competitive class and we are grateful that Corvette Racing has come out on top. It gives us great momentum going into the end of the season and 2024 when the Corvette Z06 GT3.R customer program arrives in WEC."
To wrap up the title on Sunday, Corvette Racing just needed to finish ahead of its two nearest challengers—the No. 25 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR and No. 85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR.
"How cool is this? The Corvette Racing team joined the WEC full-time last year to learn the championship and had some great successes," said Laura Wontrol Klauser, GM Sports Car Racing program manager. "This group couldn't say no. Now to be able to walk away champions and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the final year of GTE and the C8.R is a dream come true."
Keating keyed a strong start for Corvette Racing on Sunday. He started sixth but picked up spots on consecutive laps to run third prior to a safety-car period at the 15-minute mark. The Corvette crew elected to bring the C8.R into pitlane for a fuel top-off. By the time Keating made his second stop at 80 minutes running, he had worked his way back up to second as the varying pit strategies came into view.
“I’ve said it over and over, but in this championship and in each one of the five races we’ve had, it has been a true team performance overall," Keating said. "You win as a team and you lose as a team, but we’ve also been lucky in quite a lot of places. It’s just been a magical season. Everyone kept talking about us needing to finish first or second in order to clinch the championship here. I kept saying it was more about where the 25 and 85 finished rather than where we finished."
Varrone took the wheel at about the two-hour mark, but the C8.R was called in for a drive-through penalty due to speeding in the pitlane. Varrone came out of the drive-through penalty sixth but worked his way back to the lead with strong pace and the pit stop cycle. By the time his driving time was complete just prior to the four-hour mark, the C8.R ran third but less than four seconds from the leader.
“This means quite a lot," Varrone said. "It feels very weird at the moment but means so much. To say that we are World Champions is just an amazing feeling. I’ve been working for this since I was 8 years old and started driving karts."
Catsburg drove the final 92 minutes and brought the car home in fourth place.
“Honestly, this season might have been one of my nicest in motorsport. It has been so cool, right from the start," Catsburg said. "It was always very relaxed with not a lot of pressure. Somehow the results just kept coming. I cannot deny that we have a great car, a great team and we have an awesome lineup. But we still need to execute, and I feel like we did that really well.
"It’s super, super cool to be able to call myself a World Champion. I think I had won it before with a team but not as a driver. So I’m really, really happy.”