Ben Keating teams with Jeroen Bleekemolen for 2014 campaign in the new SRT® GT3-R.
The pieces are falling into place for Ben Keating, as he prepares for a full-time run in the Grand Daytona Class with the United Sportscar Series, piloting his SRT® Viper GT3-R. The latest 2014 development: Keating will team up with world-class sports car racer and multi-time champion Jeroen Bleekemolen, who will act as co-driver.
When Keating, a two-time SRT Viper Cup Series champion, got wind of the new SRT Viper GT3-R racecar program, he instantly threw his hat in the ring and purchased the first car. The native of Tomball, Texas, is helping to lay the framework and develop the racecar, a direct descendant of the SRT Viper GTS-R that competes in the American Le Mans Series GT class.
“I want to race what I sell,” said Keating, who operates ViperExhange.com, the highest-volume Viper dealership in the nation. “I am passionate about the car and want to be successful. The entire structure works for me as a driver, as a businessman and as a guy that wants to sell lots of Vipers.”
With the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Series, the 2014 season will bring a new class structure, including the formation of the GT Daytona class. Each team will be comprised of a professional driver and an amateur driver. For the longer endurance races, such as the 12 Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona, teams will employ third and fourth drivers, respectively.
Bleekemolen, who hails from the Netherlands and now lives in Monaco, is a past champion, including claiming the FIA GT vice-championship in 2001 in a Viper GTS-R. Bleekemolen has wins in-class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the 24 Hours of Dubai and the 12 Hours of Sebring, among others. The veteran driver claimed the 2010 ALMS GTC title on the strength of four wins and seven podium finishes, while earning six pole positions.
“In my opinion, Jeroen is one of the best endurance racers in the world,” said Keating. “It’s extremely exciting for me to be teamed up with him. Jeroen was at the top of my list when we were putting this program together. I feel like I have the best car, in the best class structure with the best co-driver. These are the perfect elements in a recipe for success.”
Gearing up for 2014
Keating has spent this season competing in ALMS in the GTC class in a Porsche teamed with Damien Faulkner. The 2013 season marked the first time in his racing career that he has not campaigned a Viper. In 2012, Keating racked up five wins in the SRT Viper Cup Series en route to his second straight title, piloting a Viper ACR-X.
Keating will get his first seat time in the SRT Viper GT3-R in mid-October when he takes part in a developmental test session. The first official United Sportscar Racing series test is slated for the middle of November, and Keating plans to be on-hand to put the GT3-R through the paces with his fellow competitors. The car will be housed at the Riley Technologies shop in Mooresville, North Carolina.
“No one knows this car as well as Bill Riley,” noted Keating. “He has been involved in the development of the GTS-Rs for SRT and has been completely immersed in the development of the SRT Viper GT3-R. Bill Riley and I will work together on managing the team and figuring out what we need to do to win races.”
The 2014 season will open for Keating and his ViperExchange.com SRT Viper GT3-R in January, with the running of the 24 Hours of Daytona at Florida’s famed Daytona International Speedway.