Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen Co-Drive No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Viper to Victory in The Sports Car Classic on Belle Isle
DETROIT (June 4, 2016) – ViperExchange.com scored a hometown win for the Dodge Viper GT3-R on the streets of Detroit Saturday on Belle Isle where Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen co-drove the No. 33ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R to the GT Daytona (GTD) class victory in the Sports Car Classic.
“It's a huge deal,” Keating said. “I'm a Dodge dealer, I am Viper Exchange, the number one volume Viper Dealer in the nation, so I've got great relationships with all the Viper people here at the Conner Avenue assembly plant where every Viper is hand built right here in Detroit. Hopefully we win on Saturday and sell on Monday.”
After qualifying the No. 33 sixth on Friday, Keating stayed in touch with the lead pack throughout his race-opening stint. He raced his way into the lead as the GTD field cycled through pit stops at the 35-minute mark and posted some of his fastest laps of the race before bringing the No. 33 in for its only stop of the race.
Bleekemolen took over for Keating and stayed up front after a great pit stop. He kept the No. 33 up front for the remainder of the race despite the ever-present pressure of Jörg Bergmeister’s Porsche in his mirrors.
“The guys did a great job on the pit stop, Ben's final laps in his stint were great, and that made us move to the front,” Bleekemolen said. “I knew with Jörg Bergmeister behind me it was not going to be easy. He's famous for a couple of last lap passes, I've seen some great stuff from him, so I had to push all the way to the end, and luckily we could stay ahead. It's great what the team did with the pit stop, we knew that was our chance, and we took it.”
The winning stop by the ViperExchange.com/ Riley Motorsports team was the second-straight piece of masterful pit work the crew has pulled off in the last two races. One race ago in Laguna Seca, the Viper jumped five positions to a sixth-place finish after a perfect pit stop.
“The big difference maker for our race was the Riley pit stop,” Keating said. “It was unbelievable and we had a great strategy. It was really crazy in terms of strategy today, but the pit stop that the Riley guys did was just unbelievable. That was where we won the race.”
Today’s victory unofficially moves Keating and Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team to fourth in the respective IMSA GTD driver and team championship standings after coming to Detroit ranked eighth.
The No. 33 and its drivers now have 105 points, just three points behind the third-place team and drivers and 21 points out of first place in both championships.
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) in 2014 and Road America and COTA, for the second-year-in-a-row, last year.
Keating also co-drove the team’s sister No. 93 Viper to victory in 2015’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. He was emotionally moved after that victory, and today’s home-turf triumph in Detroit was just as special.
“There are a lot of emotional people here in Detroit that take a lot of pride in every Viper being built right here in Detroit,” Keating said. “The car has a cult following, we are racing a Viper, we’re representing Dodge here, which is a big deal because the car is built here, and we are the only American car raced in the GTD class. It’s huge to win here in Detroit and to have a little American muscle up front.”
Next up for ViperExchange.com and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International, July 1 – 3. The six-hour race will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) starting at 10 a.m. EDT on Sunday, July 3.
- Immediately after today’s race, Keating, Bleekemolen and Marc Goossens were part of a group of 10 drivers flying straight to France for Sunday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans pre-test. Keating, Bleekemolen and Goossens will be co-driving the No 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03R-Nissan in the LMP2 class in the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 18 – 19. “The drivers of all three cars on the GTD podium, we are all on the same plane headed over to Le Mans and land there at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow for the test day that starts at 8:00 a.m.," Keating said.
About ViperExchange.com: ViperExchange.com is the largest Dodge Viper and exotic cars licensed dealer located just Northwest of Houston, Texas. With over 100 Dodge Vipers typically for sale and more arriving daily for sale, ViperExchange.com has combined the largest inventory in the world of new and pre-owned Dodge Vipers. ViperExchange.com also offers the best prices and discounts. Special orders, specific model searches and financing options are also available. For more information, visit ViperExchange.com directly, Twitter @ViperExchange and Facebook at Facebook.com/Viper-Exchange.