ViperExchange.com Looking for Second-Straight Canadian Tire Motorsport Park IMSA GTD Victory with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen
No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Viper GT3-R Team Returns to Site of First Win
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Canada (July 7, 2016) – ViperExchange.com and team co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen will be competing for their second race win of 2016 and second-straight victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend at the wheel of the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R.
The Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, on the track formerly known as “Mosport,” is the sixth of 11 races in this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) Championship and can be seen live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) this Sunday, July 10, at 11 a.m. EDT.
The GTD class returns to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park after last appearing at Mosport in 2014, a race that marked a milestone victory for ViperExchange.com, Keating, Bleekemolen, Riley Technologies, Riley Motorsports and the entire Dodge Viper GT3-R program.
Marking a number of firsts, the 2014 win was the first together for Keating and Bleekemolen and the first in IMSA GTD for the Dodge Viper GT3-R – in its inaugural season of competition – that was designed and built by Riley Technologies.
The victory was also the first in IMSA GTD for the Riley Technologies-affiliated Riley Motorsports team that operates and is the entrant for the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Viper GT3-R program that debuted in 2014.
“The first win in the Viper GT3R was extremely special,” Keating said. “It was the first win, which was enough, but I think even more special was that I personally drove a great race. I had some good battles and I led for a good portion of my stint. It is always a little more special for me personally when I know that I contributed to the result.”
After Keating kept the No. 33 up front throughout his race-opening shift, Bleekemolen took over and chased down the Porsche of Kevin Estre for the winning pass just before the white flag waved.
“I can still look back to our win at Mosport with a big smile,” Bleekemolen said. “We had a great race and only took the lead with less than two laps to go. It was very exciting to get our first win there.”
Keating and Bleekemolen have driven the No. 33 to four more IMSA GTD victories since that inaugural Mosport win, including two races ago this season with a win in Detroit.
The No. 33 team also scored a solid fourth-place finish last weekend in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen where great race strategy by the Riley Motorsports team and outstanding driving by Keating and Bleekemolen made up for a serious gap in performance to the competition.
“At Watkins Glen, the only way we were able to be where we were was by totally trimming out the aero on the car,” Keating said. “It is crazy to think that we had less rake and less rear wing than we did at Daytona!!! The only reason we were able to get away with this was because of the new pavement and the super-high grip level. I don’t expect Mosport to be this way.”
ViperExchange.com even managed to work its way to as high as second in the final 30 minutes of the race before the eventual fourth-place result.
“I'm going out there to fight hard again,” Bleekemolen said. “At Watkins Glen we nearly scored a podium with a car that was around 1.5 seconds slower than the competition because of the rules.
“I know I have one of the best teams in the business behind me so let's try to move to the front again and hang on to it. We're going to have to battle very hard again because I expect us to be nearly as far off the pace as we were last week.”
A rare mid-week Balance of Performance (BoP) rules adjustment by IMSA did assess more weight to the GTD class Ferraris, Audis and Porsches – the three manufacturers that finished ahead of the Viper at The Glen – for this weekend’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix.
“It is a very difficult situation for IMSA,” Keating said. “We need to be able to gain about one second per lap, but without gaining more top speed. I don’t envy their position, because it is tough, but to think adding 10 to 15 kilograms of weight to the top-three manufacturers is going to slow them down much seems like a joke to me.”
Regardless of the challenge ahead, Keating and Bleekemolen are returning to a track they like.
“I like Mosport a lot,” Bleekemolen said. “With all of its high speed corners it's a big challenge for any driver. Not too much has changed to the layout of the track since the old days, so it makes it a nice old school track to drive.”
Winning success there has helped make Mosport a favorite but ViperExchange.com comes to every track focused on what it takes for success.
“I think you always love the tracks where you perform well, so I love Mosport,” Keating said. “The downhill really fast lefthander at Turn 2 is a key at this track,” Keating said. “The really fast right-turn bend at the end of the back straight is important for a quick time. Track position is also key as there aren’t many heavy braking zones, which makes it more difficult to pass another car.
“I love this circuit. I just hope it loves us as much as it did in 2014.”
A three-day event weekend, the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow, Friday, July 8, with a pair of one-hour practice sessions beginning at 10:35 a.m. and 2:55 p.m. EDT.
A final one-hour practice session is scheduled for Saturday at 10:10 a.m. EDT with GTD qualifying later that afternoon at 3:40 p.m. EDT.
Race-day Saturday starts with a 20-minute warm-up at 8 a.m. EDT with the green flag for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix scheduled to fly at 11:05 a.m. EDT.
- Keating has kept his sense of humor throughout this most recent round of BoP drama. “The 10 to 15 kilograms of extra weight on the top-three manufacturers is the weight difference between Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen,” Keating said “Wait! Maybe that is why Jeroen is so much faster than me? NOT!”
- The Riley Motorsports team and Keating have spent ample time reviewing the Watkins Glen post-race data. “The interesting thing about the trimmed-out aero at Watkins Glen was that we were significantly slower than other cars between 80 mph and 140 mph,” Keating said. “The only place where we were quicker was over 140 mph. Other cars had the drag, and we didn’t, but this was the only way we could be anywhere near a decent lap time, and the only way to try to stay in front of other cars. Our plan worked very well, but we still have the issue of being 1.2 seconds per lap slower than a large portion of the field.