ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R Teams Perform Well in Rainy Rolex 24 Qualifying
Damien Faulkner Qualifies #TeamTexas No. 93 Fourth; Jeroen Bleekemolen Sixth in Gas Monkey Garage Energy No. 33
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (January 28, 2016)Damien Faulkner and Jeroen Bleekemolen kept it quick but cool in a rainy qualifying session Thursday at Daytona International Speedway and ended up putting both ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-Rs in the top six of the GT Daytona (GTD) starting grid for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona
The Rolex 24 opens the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season and can be seen live in combined and continuous programming on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), FOX Sports 2 (FS2) and IMSA.com. Coverage begins this Saturday, January 30, at 2 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 to open 16 hours of live Rolex 24 programming across the FS1 and FS2 cable networks. The remainder of the race can be followed through live streaming and commentary on IMSA.com.
Faulkner and the No. 93 “Don’t mess with Texas” #TeamTexas Dodge Viper GT3-R team shook off an alternator issue and some lost track time earlier in the day to qualify fourth. An Irishman, Faulkner has been made an honorary member of the Lone Star State this weekend by his four Texas teammates, Ben Keating, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Gar Robinson.
“I love the rainy conditions,” Faulkner said. “It was quite a challenge because, unfortunately, we missed the first session today. It certainly wasn’t easy to go out and drive, in terms of my mindset, in this but the car that Riley Motorsports gave us was a fantastic car. Once I drove the car in the session it was really, really good and that allowed me to put it fourth on the grid.”
Bleekemolen qualified the No. 33 Gas Monkey Garage Energy Dodge Viper GT3-R sixth fastest in the GTD field. He will start the No. 33 directly behind Faulkner in the No. 93 from the outside of row three on the Rolex 24 GTD grid.
“You think a little bit about taking care of the car in the wet conditions, but it's still qualifying so you give it all,” Bleekemolen said. “The car got better and better and, unfortunately, in the last lap when I did my best time I had to overtake a slower car which cost me quite a bit of time. It wasn’t enough for pole but, at least for a few more spots, it could have been better. It was really wet out there so everybody was really struggling quite a lot.”
ViperExchange.com team principal Ben Keating will drive both the No. 33 and No. 93 Vipers in this weekend’s Rolex 24 for the second year in a row. He was one of the co-drivers in the No. 93 for last year’s Rolex 24 winning GTD effort.
“The cars, the class, the driver lineups, everything is so different than last year in GTD,” Keating said. “I'm glad we were out there qualifying, even in these conditions. It's going to be rain, rain go away hopefully tonight, and Friday through Monday is supposed to be zero percent chance of rain and nice and clear. It's going to make the whole weekend a really interesting experience. We have one short warm-up session tomorrow morning and that's going to be our only semi-dry time in the car for setup. Other than that, it's race time.”
Keating will co-drive the Gas Monkey Garage Energy No. 33 with full-season teammate Bleekemolen as well as Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Miller. Farnbacher joins Keating as the only drivers on this year’s ViperExchange.com Daytona team that were part of last year’s winning No. 93 effort.
Friday morning’s one-hour final practice at 10:25 a.m. is the last session – and only chance for some laps in the dry – before Saturday’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, which is scheduled to start at 2:40 p.m. EST.
- Keating likes his chances even better after the rain made the Rolex 24 pretty much a game of unknowns. “Everybody in the field is going to have to be shooting in the dark, and when it comes to shooting in the dark, I'd much rather be with Riley Motorsports,” Keating said. “This will be our fourth and fifth Rolex 24s in a Viper running two cars and so we have a lot of experience here, we had a good test at the Roar. I feel very comfortable that we're going to come into the race with a great race car.”
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About Gas Monkey Garage: In 2002, Richard Rawlings launched Gas Monkey Garage. The Garage created and transported automobiles for customers worldwide. Since 2012, the facility has been the focus of the Discovery Channel series 'Fast N' Loud.' In September 2013, Rawlings started Gas Monkey Bar N' Grill in Northwest Dallas with a second location at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport opened in March 2014. In October 2014, Gas Monkey Live, a venue dedicated predominantly to live music, was opened. In May 2015, Rawlings published his first autobiography entitled Fast N’ Loud: Blood, Sweat and Beers. In 2016, Gas Monkey Garage will partner in three motorsports efforts with the ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Gas Monkey Garage Special in the 100th Indy 500 and the Laughlin Motorsports Pro Stock in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.