Leading 2015 GT Daytona class race winners focused on capturing 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title.
Tomball, Texas – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports team will return to GT Daytona (GTD) competition for the third consecutive year in 2016 with a full-season effort in the No 33 Dodge Viper GT3-R in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Keating, Bleekemolen and the Riley Motorsports team have won a pair of GTD races in the ViperExchange.com No. 33 in each of the past two seasons and hope to couple similar success next year with an all-out bid to win the 2016 championship.
In addition to Keating and Bleekemolen staying together for a third season, the Bill Riley-led ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports team is returning with all of the same management, engineering and key pit crew personnel that were part of the last two season’s winning efforts. The Riley-built Dodge Viper GT3-R is also entering its third year of top-level IMSA competition.
The fact that GTD has moved to a GT3-spec class should be a big help for us,
“Continuity like this is HUGE,” Keating said. “We all have gotten to the point that we know the car very well and we know each other very well also. There is an unspoken magic that comes from a team that just works together well. I feel like the Viper GT3-R has some unfinished business and I welcome some new competition and larger fields in GTD.”
Next season will see the IMSA GTD class follow the general rules and regulations of the worldwide FIA GT3 division. The global alignment around GT3 has already seen new teams and debuting manufacturers announce their intention to run in what should be a larger GTD field in 2016.
“I think the move to GT3 is great,” said Bleekemolen, a native of the Netherlands. “Those cars are racing worldwide, so there is plenty of data to look at for balancing the performance. From my own experience racing in GT3 championships in Europe, I know how close they have had most cars for the last couple of years. The car count will also be amazing, there is a lot of interest from all over the world to join us.”
The Dodge Viper GT3-R was originally built as a GT3 specification race car that was altered to run within the previous IMSA GTD regulations that last two seasons.
“The fact that GTD has moved to a GT3-spec class should be a big help for us,” Keating said. “Many teams are bringing in new cars. It always takes time to learn the quirks of a new car, and it takes a few sessions to find the proper set up. Having raced this car the past two years, we have so much knowledge to use to our benefit. Our car should just get better and better, and my goal is to just have consistency from our race finishes. I don't know that it is reasonable to think that we will win more races in 2016 with larger fields and new competition, but I expect our consistency to be better. That is the key to a championship, and I think this is the best shot we have at winning a championship.”
Bleekemolen wants to win the GTD championship with Keating and the ViperExchange.com No. 33 team and also add what has been an elusive victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona to his list of career wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans.