ViperExchange.com Shooting for the Podium and Championship Points in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix
Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R Riley Motorsports Team Primed For Laguna Seca Success
MONTEREY, California (April 28, 2016) – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the Riley Motorsports-run No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R team are looking for a result reflective of their race-leading performance this season in this weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The third race on the 2016 calendar for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) class, Sunday’s featured two-hour sprint starts at 3:45 p.m. PDT. Live coverage on FOX Sports 2 (FS2) begins at 6:30 p.m. EDT.
The race marks the one and only time this year that the GTD division will share the track with just the Prototype Challenge (PC) class.
The majority of this year’s races have all four IMSA WeatherTech divisions, which also includes the Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes, competing at the same time. The PC/GTD-only format, which was first run at Laguna Seca in 2014, offers a welcome change of pace.
“I like it,” Keating said. “I think less traffic is an advantage for the No. 33 Viper. It gives us a chance to run our race, less chance of outside influences to ruin our day, and the added press coverage of only two classes is nice as well.”
Keating and Bleekemolen co-drove the No. 33 in 2014’s first PC/GTD-only race at Laguna Seca.
“It's nice to have less traffic out there,” Bleekemolen said. “Sometimes it's hard to have GTLM cars overtaking us because we are so close now with the GT3 cars, and better in some areas. So, it makes it easier for all of us. For the racing it won't change much, everyone will give it their all as usual.”
The No. 33 team ran competitively and led the GTD class in this year’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring but didn’t leave either race with a finish indicative of the strong showings.
Bleekemolen drove to the lead in his race-opening stint at Daytona but the No. 33 later lost valuable time after a Saturday night infield accident. Bleekemolen, Keating, and their Rolex 24 teammates Marc Miller and Dominik Farnbacher, ended up fighting back to a 10th place finish at Daytona in the repaired Viper.
At Sebring, Bleekemolen once again charged to the lead in the first hour of his race-opening stint only to see the Viper suffer a broken stub axle just moments later. The Riley Motorsports team quickly repaired the No. 33 that Keating, Bleekemolen and Miller ultimately brought home in 12th place.
“Last year we were in a similar position, even had an unlucky race at Laguna Seca, and were still in the running for the championship at the end of the season at Petit,” Bleekemolen said. “So, for sure my mind is still looking at winning this championship and hopefully we score good points to close the gap a bit to the leaders. As long as there is a chance to win we will fight for it. It's still a very long season.”
Keating shares Bleekemolen’s optimism for better results in the races ahead and knows the No. 33 team has come to Laguna Seca as prepared as always.
“It hasn't changed anything at all,” Keating said. “We were well prepared for the first two races as well. We just need consistent finishes. If we can be on the podium for two or three races, then we can be right back in it.”
Keating and Bleekemolen joined Riley Motorsports for at test at Road Atlanta earlier this month.
“We did do some running and testing with the Viper,” Bleekemolen said. “It was great to get some work done, and I believe we are as prepared as we can be. We have had a long break after Sebring, so I can't wait to go back racing with the team. Laguna is one of the best tracks, so really looking forward to it.”
The Road Atlanta run let the team get a jump on its Laguna Seca preparation.
“We were just running in some new parts to make sure we don't have any issues at Laguna,” Keating said. “Stuff we normally would have done in practice at Laguna, but since we had the track rented, we knocked it out.”
- A primary purpose of the Road Atlanta test was for Keating to gain some familiarity in a mid-engine Prototype race car in preparation for June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Keating and Bleekemolen lapped Road Atlanta in a Starworks Motorsport PC car, which is an Oreca chassis comparable in basic format to the Oreca 03R Murphy Prototypes entry they will race at Le Mans. Marc Goossens is the third driver for the Le Mans effort.
- Along with the non-stop support of Viper fans, this year’s ViperExchange.com team is racing in partnership with Gas Monkey Garage and its new Gas Monkey Energy drink. The ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage merchandise tent will be open for business all weekend at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix with a new line of shirts, hats and other team collectibles. The tent is located in the main Vendor Row Area located opposite of the paddock and on the other side of the Continental Tire Bridge.