Keating and Bleekemolen Race No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R to Road America Victory
First 2015 Win in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase Continues Strong Second Half of IMSA TUDOR Championship Season
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (August 9, 2015) – Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen broke through for the first 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victory for the No. 33ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R Sunday in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.
The victory, and a second-place finish one race earlier at Lime Rock Park, have combined to move Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team off to a strong start in the second half of the IMSA TUDOR Championship GT Daytona (GTD) season. Only three races remain on this year’s 10-race GTD schedule.
The Road America victory, the third for the ViperExchange.com No. 33 after a pair of wins last year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Circuit of The Americas, put some distance between today’s triumph and a five-race run of bad luck to start the year.
"No doubt, it's been a difficult season so far for the 33 car and we've had a good car the whole season,” Keating said. “It's really great to finally stand on the top step of the podium with the 33 Viper. It was a really good race for us. We ran the exact strategy that we expected to run. We had a mistake-free race and really I feel like the race kind of came to us with it being green until the end.”
Keating, who has qualified an IMSA TUDOR Championship personal-best second the last two races, ran in the lead pack throughout his opening stint, set a fastest race lap and nearly took the lead on a restart. He pitted under green just shy of the race’s one-hour mark to turn the Viper over to Bleekemolen.
“Today we had a perfect race,” Bleekemolen said. “Everything ran well, no mistakes, really good pit stops, and because it was green for so long, you had to do everything good. That’s why we had a little gap at the end.”
The GTD field was split by several different fuel and pit-stop strategies but only the No. 33 team’s worked to perfection. Bleekemolen passed several cars and then took a lead the team would never lose when friend and former Viper teammate, Kuno Wittmer, pitted for fuel in his Aston Martin 20 minutes from the finish.
“If a yellow flag had come out in that last hour, then I think we would have ended up in third, so it's really nice to be able to run green the whole time and have the race come to us when Kuno and some others had to pit," Keating said. "When everything washed out, we had a really good cushion and could save fuel and ride to the finish. Jeroen did a great job, the whole team really, and Riley Motorsports gave us a great car.”
Sunday’s win was the third of the season for a Riley built and prepared Dodge Viper GT3-R. The sister No. 93 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive Dodge Viper GT3-R has won two races this year in pursuit of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, a championship the team leads heading into October’s finale at Petit Le Mans.
"It was really a perfect race and that's all team work,” said Bill Riley, Riley Motorsports Team Director. “All the way, everybody on the team did their job the best they possibly could, changing tires, refueling, doing all of the maintenance, everything. That's how we won today, just everybody pulling in the same direction, simple as that."
Riley was also quick to credit the pre-race preparation of the No. 33 by Lead Engineer, Tyler Hook, as another major key to victory.
“Tyler and the guys really came here with the right plan, the right set-up and that put us in a good position from the beginning,” Riley said. “Friday’s rain made that even more important, they were just ready, and we had the right stuff off the trailer.”
- ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports is the only IMSA TUDOR Championship GTD multi-car team to win races with both of its cars this season. “The 93 has a pair of good wins this year but it is great to get one with the 33 too,” Riley said. “We kind of always felt we were close, and have run first with the 33 this year but no victory. So, it is great to get that done and it’s great to do it at Road America, one of my favorite places.”
- The team’s strategy, and how the race unfolded, worked so well that Bleekemolen was able to cruise to the checkered flag in the final 15 minutes. “We had a little gap in the end,” Bleekemolen said. “Some people had different strategies but it actually got quite comfortable in the end for us. That doesn’t happen at every race.”
- Bleekemolen has built quite a record at Road America in just six career races at the Wisconsin track. He scored three-straight IMSA GTC wins from 2010 through 2012 in addition to Sunday’s triumph. In total, he has finished no lower than fourth, racing to GTC runner-up honors in 2013 and finishing fourth with Keating last year in the ViperExchange.com No. 33. "It's great,” Bleekemolen said. “This must be my favorite track because it’s my fourth win in six races here, and that's nice.”
- With a streak of three-consecutive season-best finishes – June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen saw Keating and Bleekemolen finish a then season-best sixth – Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 have moved into the top-five in the GTD championship standings with 184 points. They trail the fourth-place team and drivers by five points and are just six points shy of the third-place competitors.
Next up for ViperExchange.com and the IMSA TUDOR Championship is the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway. August 21 – 23.
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