ViperExchange.com Rides Momentum of Motown Victory to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen Racing for Second-Straight Win Sunday in No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Viper GT3-R
WATKINS GLEN, New York (June 30, 2016) – ViperExchange.com and team co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen are bringing some Motown momentum to Watkins Glen International this weekend where the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R team will be looking for a second-straight IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) class victory in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
The fifth GTD round of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen can be seen live this Sunday, July 3, on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) at 10 a.m. EDT.
Keating and Bleekemolen scored their first win of 2016 earlier this month at the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a popular hometown victory for the Motown-made Dodge Viper.
The win boosted Keating, Bleekemolen and the Riley Motorsports-run No. 33 ViperExchange.com team to fourth in the IMSA GTD driver and team championship standings.
“I am excited about the championship,” Keating said. “We are still a long way from the front, but at least we are in the hunt. We are in a MUCH better position this year than we were last year.”
The No. 33 and its drivers come to The Glen with 105 points, just three points behind the third-place team and drivers and 21 points out of first place in both championships.
“Detroit was really great,” Bleekemolen said. “Finally, we didn't have bad luck and could go for the best possible result.”
The Detroit victory also paves the way for continued success at Watkins Glen where the sister ViperExchange.com No. 93 entry took the GTD victory in last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours.
A win this year may prove to be a tougher task on The Glen’s recently repaved racing surface.
“I think Watkins Glen will be much different this year than in years past,” Keating said. “With the new pavement, I think many of the other GT3 cars will have the advantage. We have done well at bumpy tracks and the other cars in class have done well at smooth tracks, and new pavement equals smooth.”
Recent IMSA Balance of Performance (BoP) rule changes have also hampered the Viper with smaller air restrictors while several other manufacturers have been granted larger restrictors allowing for better engine air flow.
“I think Watkins Glen is a good track for our car,” Bleekemolen said. “I'm a bit cautious however on our chances with the latest BoP changes. I know some of the other GT3 cars really well from racing them in Europe right now, and to see how big some restrictors will be, I know we will have a hard time out there. But that doesn't mean we won't try. We will go out and push as hard as we can.”
At six hours, The Sahlen’s is the shortest of the year’s four endurance races behind the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans, which is 10 hours in length.
“I love the six-hour format because we are able to do it with two drivers,” Keating said. “Most teams will use three drivers, but with the new rules of having to achieve minimum drive time to get points in the championship, I think our two driver team is an advantage. Our car is easy to drive and doesn’t wear you down. So I can run just over two hours and Jeroen can run just under four. It should be fun.”
Despite its endurance-race designation, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen is considered by many to be a flat-out sprint.
“Although I will be in the car a bit longer than during the short races this one feels like a sprint race,” Bleekemolen said. “We will have to fight hard for the win from lap one onwards and that will make for great racing again.”
The Glen is the first round of the only back-to-back weekend stretch of races on the 2016 schedule. The following weekend the IMSA WeatherTech series heads to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Canada.
“I love it,” Keating said. “I think the new GT3 machinery makes these two tracks less of an advantage for the Viper than it used to be, but I do think that our engineering team is awesome. I like the fact that there is so little time between races. I expect us to be good straight out of the trailer when we get to Mosport, and that can be a large advantage.”
Practice for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen begins tomorrow, Friday, July 1, at 11:25 a.m. EDT, with GTD qualifying on Saturday, July 2, at 3:40 p.m. EDT.
Race-day Sunday begins with a 20-minute warm-up at 8 a.m. with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen scheduled to go green at 10:10 a.m. EDT.
- The Detroit win was the fifth career IMSA GTD victory for Keating and Bleekemolen together in the No. 33 Viper, and first of the 2016 season. The duo now has at least one GTD victory together each season since the GTD category was introduced in 2014. They won at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Circuit of The Americas (COTA) that year and Road America and COTA, for the second-year-in-a-row, in 2015.
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