Later this month, Mike “Rocky” Rockenfeller will battle it out in the FIA WEC’s competitive LMGTE Pro category in a brand-new Corvette C8.R at the Lone Star Le Mans in Austin (22-23 February).
Rocky is certainly no stranger to endurance racing having competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on ten occasions, but this will be his first time out in the mid-engine Corvette and his debut at COTA.
1. Welcome, Rocky! How does it feel to be back with Corvette Racing?
"It is very exciting! I have heard a lot from the other drivers about how the Corvette C8.R is much more advanced than any other Corvette out there. I'm extremely happy and it's great to be back with the team for these two FIA WEC rounds. What is really great is to be in the new C8.R for the first time and to drive it. All in all, I'm super happy it worked out.”
2. This will only be the second time the Corvette C8.R is seen in competitive action after last month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona…
"Yes, I'm really looking forward to feeling how the new Corvette is in reality. I've been in the team shop for a seat fitting for a couple days – so, I know the car in detail sitting in it and looking at it. I also followed the team closely at Daytona. The Corvette looked very fast and competitive at Daytona... going that distance and being in contention for a win this early is a good sign. But for me, it will be great to be behind the wheel on the racetrack. That's what I'm really looking forward to."
3. So, can you tell us how you’ve got familiar with the C8.R?
"There was a manual we went through with the older car, even with some of the smaller changes. For the new car, everything is new. The other drivers are familiar with it as they have been testing and racing it. Even Jan knows most of everything about the car and the controls. For me, it will be all new. I think it's always best to sit in the car, go over things with the guys and ask questions if things aren't clear. I had a chance to do that already at the shop during the seat-fitting. I tried to use that time as best I could for that.”
4. You’ve competed at Le Mans on ten occasions, but what are your impressions of the WEC and is this a series you enjoy?
"As a driver, you always want to be part of big races and big championships. For me, Le Mans has always been the dream to be part of. The WEC rounds, especially in GTE, are as in America: extremely competitive. It's not easy to just arrive and do a couple of events but we will try to do well. I love racing in America so I'm happy to do these two rounds in the WEC. I've never been to Austin so it's great to see that facility and that part of the country. And, of course, Sebring is great with the two championships [IMSA and the WEC] running on the same weekend. It couldn't be much better."
5. You will be up against Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche in the LMGTE Pro category – who do you see as your biggest competitor?
"The battle between all the manufacturers is as the battle is in America - a tough fight for all the brands. The entire WEC is a difficult championship with many teams and drivers we know well from Le Mans. I'm looking forward to it."
6. You’re back with Jan for the Lone Star Le Mans, how well do the two of you work together?
"We have texted quite a lot. We’re both looking forward to these two races. Having the two of us do this is positive as we know each other well from the past four years. I don't foresee any struggle or needing extra time for us to adapt to each other or know each other's preferences in setup and how the car should drive. That's also a good opportunity for us to be close straightaway on pace. It's not like we don't know each other after all these years!"
7. How have you been preparing for COTA?
"What I have done and will continue to do is drive the track on my simulator at home. I've already done several laps so I know the track from that. But I do want to do that more in preparation for the race. I have heard now nice Austin is from a lot of people in different categories. So, I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we have a good race... that's even more important!"
Source: Rachel Cavers/FIAWEC Press
Photos: FIAWEC & Steve Tarrant/CFS