ViperExchange.com Returns to Road America Looking For a Repeat Victory in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase
Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R Seeking Consecutive Road America Wins
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (August 2, 2016) – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33ViperExchange.com Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R Riley Motorsports team return to Road America this weekend looking for a repeat victory in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, August 5 – 7.
Round 8 of 11 races on the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class schedule, the weekend’s featured Continental Tire Road Race Showcase can be seen live this Sunday, August 7, on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) at 4 p.m. EDT.
Keating and Bleekemolen drove the ViperExchange.com No. 33 to the GTD victory last year at Road America and, along with the Riley Motorsports team, are primed for a repeat this weekend.
“If there is one track in North America that favors the Viper GT3-R, it is Road America,” Keating said. “Everything feels right, Jeroen and I love the place, and hopefully Road America will love us as much in 2016 as she did in 2015.”
After qualifying a personal-best second in last year’s race, Keating diced in the lead pack throughout his opening stint, set a fastest race lap and nearly took the lead on a restart. He pitted just before the race’s one-hour mark to turn the Viper over to Bleekemolen.
“I love Road America,” Bleekemolen said. “I have raced there six times before, I have won four times and have a second and a fourth. So, never really a bad weekend, and my most successful track in America.”
Road America is both universally admired and respected by Keating, Bleekemolen and their IMSA competitors.
“Road America is a track that has it all,” Keating said. “I think it is a track that rewards bravery. So many fast corners, so many risks and heavy brake zones. It is a place that is great as long as everything is going well, but it can all go bad quickly. Having confidence in your car is paramount. You have to know what can be repeated lap after lap. Otherwise, you can’t take the risks needed for a quick lap.”
A repeat victory this weekend would be the second of the season for ViperExchange.com, after first winning in Detroit in early June, and would go a long way in keeping Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team in the IMSA GTD championship battles.
Following a third-place finish two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park, Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team come to Road America fourth in the GTD team and driver championship standings with 186 points.
They are one point ahead of the fifth-place team and drivers and just one point behind the third-place No. 23 Porsche team. The No. 44 Audi team and drivers are second with 199 points, and the first-place No. 63 Ferrari squad has 212 points.
“I hope we can close up the gap again to the championship leaders to put us into a good position in the end,” Bleekemolen said. “You need a good balance in the high-speed sections and a good aerodynamic balance too at Road America. You need downforce for the fast corners but at the same time not too much drag on the straights.”
Despite not always having the same pace as the competition, ViperExchange.com has stayed in the running at every race this year thanks to top strategy and unmatched pit stops by the Riley Motorsports team.
“The Riley team has been absolutely amazing so far this year,” Keating said. “Just spectacular. For sure we have had some yellow flags fall perfectly in our favor, and we have gotten lucky with some calls, but the team has been consistently flawless. It makes me even more proud to be working with these guys.”
Bleekemolen, who races in several different and premier international endurance racing series each season, ranks Riley Motorsports as good as any sports car team in the world.
“I already knew it but they prove it race after race,” Bleekemolen said. “They are one of the best teams in the world. It is great to work with a group of people that is so professional, passionate and all about getting results.”
Road America – the longest race circuit on the IMSA tour at just over four miles in length – ironically follows the race at Lime Rock, the shortest track on the schedule at 1.5 miles.
“The length of the track at Road America can definitely change some of the strategy a bit, but the Riley team has been so great at this so far this season, so I am not worried about that,” Keating said. “As drivers, we will do as we are told from the pit box, but with a lot of confidence that we’ve made the correct call.”
The 4.048-mile Road America track can tempt teams to try fuel-stretching, endurance-race types of strategies even though the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase runs to IMSA’s standard sprint race length of two-hours and 40-minutes.
“It is still a sprint race in my opinion, but with a big lap you can calculate easier whether you can do another lap or not,” Bleekemolen said. “You get less laps in practice as it takes more time, but both Ben and I know the track well, so we should be up to speed soon.”
The Continental Tire Road Race Showcase weekend begins Friday with a pair of one-hour practice sessions at 12:40 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. CDT.
Saturday begins with a third and final one-hour practice at 9:25 a.m. CDT to set the stage for GTD qualifying that afternoon at 2:50 p.m. CDT.
Race-day Sunday kicks-off with a 20-minute warm-up at 9:40 a.m. CDT before the featured Continental Tire Road Race Showcase main event goes green at 3:05 p.m. CDT.
- Bleekemolen’s incredible win record at Road America includes victories in his first three races at Elkhart Lake. He co-drove to ALMS GTC wins from 2010 through 2012 and finished second in the class in 2013. His “worst” finish was fourth with Keating in the ViperExchange.com No. 33 in 2014, but the duo rebounded for what would be Bleekemolen’s fourth win at Road America last year. “I loved the track right away,” Bleekemolen said. “Four wins in six years should say enough about me and this track. I really look forward to it again.”
- Keating also came home a winner in his Road America debut. “I won in my first race weekend at Road America in 2011 in the Dodge Viper Cup,” Keating said. “I think the Viper has always loved Road America.”
- Bleekemolen raced in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium and sees a flattering similarity between the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and Road America. “Road America is really cool to drive, fast and long,” Bleekemolen said. “Just coming from the Spa 24 hours, it's easy to compare it to that track.”
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