Why the learning never stops for Ben Keating
Photo: WEC

Why the learning never stops for Ben Keating

The progression and development of simulators, in particular driver-in-the-loop (DiL) sims in recent years has been one of the key preparation elements of professional racing teams.

Recent LMGTE Am Sebring winner Ben Keating recently took his first trip to the GM Technical Centre in Charlotte, USA, where he sampled the in-house DiL.

Keating became only the second driver to win races with three separate manufacturers when he and teammates Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone won the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring.

Speaking of the experience at the GM Technical Centre, Keating said that “most people don’t realise that all of these cars and equipment went into shipping containers to go from Sebring to Portugal for the next race.

“There is no opportunity to test these cars at these tracks. Corvette Racing has never been to Portimão, so the ability to have the DiL simulator available to us as a tool is just a huge game-changer in terms of separating us from the field in our performance in two different ways.

“One is that it gets me as a driver the opportunity to turn some laps in the Corvette at Portimão, which I haven’t been to since 2021 and never in the Corvette. It’s a nice refresher for me.

“I’m going to be up to speed much quicker when I get in the car at the real track than I would be just trying to refresh myself in that first session. We only get three practice sessions when we get to the track, and we have three drivers trying to get in and out of the car and get familiar with this car at this track in three short practice sessions.”

Keating went on to praise the simulator, calling it “an amazing tool not only from the situation of giving the driver an opportunity to refresh themselves with the track and to be more comfortable, but also to try different setups for the engineers and the car to have a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

“I feel much better that the engineers are going to come into the weekend with a gameplan. If we have understeer, we know what to change. If we have oversteer, we know what to change. It feels like we are so much better prepared because we have the ability to use the simulator.

“Portimão is one of those tracks that isn’t on iRacing, so I can’t hop on that on my simulator at home and drive on that.”

For Keating the question isn’t “how close a sim is to reality” but “if there is value in going to the sim.

“Hands-down, that’s a big yes. There’s a ton of value to the drivers and a ton of value to the engineers. Those are the two groups of people that are most pressed for time when you get to the track.

“You can correlate your driving experience on the sim to your driving experience at the track. You can correlate the engineering on the sim to the engineering at the track. If you don’t go to the sim and you don’t have that head start, you’re starting behind from the very beginning.

“I feel like it’s worth at least one extra practice session and maybe two.”

Keating and the Corvette Racing crew will be in action at this weekend’s 6 Hours of Portimao, round two of the FIA WEC.