Catching Up With Darren Keane
 October 3, 2018| 
  • Series News
Keane Catch Up 2018

Coming off his first full season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, 19-year-old Darren Keane hoped to impress in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, signing on to test with 12-time series champions Cape Motorsports.

And impress he did, leading three of the six test sessions and finishing with the second-quick time. But that wasn’t enough for the young Floridian, who took the opportunity to trial a Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires car as well – and led that series with the quickest time of the weekend.

For Keane, who was also fastest in last year’s Griffis test, it was a chance to put the difficulties of a 2018 campaign that saw him finish 14th in the standings for Newman Wachs Racing (highlighted by a podium finish at his home race in St. Petersburg, Fla.) behind him.

“It’s great to come to the Chris Griffis test and drive for two days at one of the coolest tracks in the world,” said Keane. “Indianapolis seems to suit me and I just wanted to make the most of it. The season was a little rough at times and I just wanted to go to the test and have fun – and normally when you go somewhere relaxed, you do well. Huge thanks to both teams, they gave me great cars.”

When a friend at RP Motorsport Racing indicated that a seat was open for the test, Keane jumped at the chance. The two cars share a common chassis, with the PM-18 boasting additional aerodynamic components, bigger Cooper tires and more horsepower than the USF-17.

“I’ve wanted to try the car all season long. And it’s great to do a test like this with all the other cars and drivers there to gauge myself against, rather than testing alone.  I had no expectations for that weekend – the USF2000 series is my focus so testing the Pro Mazda car was just a way to see where I’m at. It was a great experience. I loved driving the Pro Mazda car, and I loved jumping back and forth between the two cars. It was so natural to get into the bigger car – it has great front grip and great downforce.

“We’d planned to start slowly but everything felt so comfortable that I just started going. I came into the pits after five laps and found out I was P1. I just started laughing in the pit lane, it felt so good. It definitely helps that they’re the same chassis. I’ve driven nothing but Tatuus chassis for the past few years, between USF2000 and the British F3 test I did a few years ago. It’s so easy to hop in the car and feel comfortable because everything looks and feels the same. Even the gears are the same, so I didn’t have to think about anything.  It felt totally natural. It just required different braking techniques because of the increased downforce and speed.”

Keane has taken on a greater challenge off track as well as on, graduating from high school last spring and entering the University of Florida to major in engineering (mechanical at the moment, though aerospace engineering is still a possibility). He chose to enter with 12 units this semester in order to gauge the required workload. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll have available brain space for testing, with tracks in Palm Beach and Sebring only a short drive away.

“November and December are so busy with testing, so that contributed to my decision to take a slightly smaller course load my first semester. And in high school, I knew exactly how much work I had to do in order to do well, but I don’t have that knowledge regarding college. I didn’t want to take a bigger load and get overwhelmed. I could learn the system and catch up on credits later. “

The off season might also bring a new kind of car for Keane, as his driver coach, sports car star Oswaldo (Ozz) Negri, encourages the young driver to expand his horizons.

“Ozz wants me to do some LMP3 testing, to get me a bit better-rounded as a driver. It’s a bigger, heavier car and it would be good to try. So that will be part of the plan. It would be interesting to have a co-driver. Teammates are teammates, but having a co-driver is a very different thing.”

Keane is close to a decision about his next move, but in the meantime looks forward to a few off-track plans with friends and family.

“In December, a few of my high school friends and I are going to Colorado to go skiing or snowboarding. I’m really looking forward to it. Then, we’ll go back to see family in Ireland next year. My sister will be graduating from high school about the same time that my spring semester ends, so we’ll go next May. My mom’s family is from Limerick and my dad’s family is from Clare, which are close to each other. I’m glad we’re going in May, so we don’t have to deal with the cold.”

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