By his own admission, Nick Catsburg is the luckiest man on Earth. Not one, not two, but three manufacturers are sharing the Dutchman’s services in 2020. This weekend, at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, it’s Corvette’s turn as Catsburg takes the wheel of the brand-new Corvette C8.R.
DAYTONA 24 HOURS | DPI PREVIEW | LMP2 PREVIEW | GTLM PREVIEW | GTD PREVIEW | CORVETTE C8.R TECH ANALYSIS | INTERVIEW NICK CATSBURG | INTERVIEW DENNIS OLSEN | PRE-RACE NOTEBOOK | RACE UPDATE 1: SATURDAY AFTERNOON | RACE UPDATE 2: SATURDAY EVENING | RACE UPDATE 3: SUNDAY NIGHT | RACE UPDATE 4: SUNDAY MORNING | RACE UPDATE 5: SUNDAY FINISH | SATURDAY GALLERY | WEEKEND GALLERY | INTERVIEW KAMUI KOBAYASHI | INTERVIEW JESSE KROHN
Along with a new car, big changes were made in Corvette Racing’s driver line-up for 2020 as well. The new decade has Jordan Taylor join the all-American squad in the #3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R alongside Corvette expert Antonio García. Nick Catsburg comes in for the Michelin Endurance Cup races, having gotten his first taste of the massively overhauled Corvette during the Roar Before The Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway a few weeks ago.
“The Roar went pretty well,” says Nick Catsburg. “It was my first time in the car. I managed to get a decent number of laps in and the car felt pretty good from the get-go – it’s a very good base. Obviously, we still need to work a little bit on the car in terms of small balance things. But I feel like we’re kind of ready for the race. Me, personally, I didn’t do so much yet. I always feel like, ‘Oh, I need more laps, I need more laps!’ But in the end, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Corvette has entered a new era with the C8.R. For the first time, the American Muscle car finds its power source behind, instead of in front of, the driver. Clearly, it’s this what stands out the most in the new machine for Catsburg.
“I’ve driven the C6 and C7, which was still front-engine – this car has a mid-engine – so it’s very different to what I was used to in the previous Corvette,” the Corvette, BMW and Hyundai works driver says. “I would say the balance of the car, the base, is very good. The traction is very good, aerodynamically it feels very good. I think they did a really good job with the car.
“I guess they wanted something new, and it’s based on the road car, so they just had to follow that and wanted to go for something new. And honestly, it looks amazing, it feels amazing, it sounds great – it’s very different to the C6 and C7.”
Compared to anything else he’s ever driven, Catsburg sees similarities with Lamborghini, another mid-rear engine car.
“I drove the C7 and obviously also the BMW M8 GTE. Ultimately, I wouldn’t say it’s massively different – it kind of feels similar to one of the other mid-engine cars I drove which was the Lamborghini: characteristic-wise it’s similar to that, but very different to the BMW M8.”
To prepare for his new challenge, Catsburg hasn’t done anything spectacular.
“This race, with the Roar, you have a bit more preparation than normally. This weekend we haven’t done so much in practice yet with the changing weather conditions.
“I just try to do what I can: I look a lot at data, videos and just try to improve where I need to. I did some simulator stuff and trying to get ready with the driver changes and all of that – I think we’ll be fine.”
The seeds for the Corvette adventure were sown four years ago when he was drafted in by Larbre Competition for the traditional test before the Le Mans 24 Hours driving the Corvette C7.R. Catsburg set the fastest time of the GTE-Am class that day.
“I have driven the Corvettes before. The last time was the Le Mans test day in 2016 and ever since then we’ve stayed in touch and at one point this opportunity came up. I tried to make it happen, they tried to make it happen, and it worked out. I’m extremely proud that they have the trust in me and gave me the opportunity. I have to be thankful to many people that I can do this because I have some other programs as well. I’m like the luckiest guy on the planet right now!”
So, then, it was it easy to say ‘Yes’ when the call came?
“Yeah, that was not difficult! In all fairness, it’s been a team that I’ve always looked up to and what’s so good about them is that they seem to be very loyal to their drivers. As a driver it’s a very nice environment to be in and now that I’ve worked with them for a couple of days, it’s such a family atmosphere and it’s kind of small – even though it’s not – it feels like a small group. I’ve really been enjoying it a lot so far and I have some crazy good teammates with a lot of experience so for me it’s really something I’m proud of.”
While this weekend it’s all about Corvette, BMW and Hyundai will get their fair share of the 2015 Spa 24 Hours winner soon enough.
“The plan is to go back into the WTCR with Hyundai, that seems to be happening, and I’m still with BMW. My plan is to do the Nürburgring 24 Hours – I’m not sure yet, I’m sure they will announce it soon – but I really hope I can do it again.”
Christian Rodriguez contributed additional reporting.