First 2015 win in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase continues strong second half of IMSA TUDOR Championship season.
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen broke through for the first 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victory for the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R Sunday in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.
The victory, and a second-place finish one race earlier at Lime Rock Park, have combined to move Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team off to a strong start in the second half of the IMSA TUDOR Championship GT Daytona (GTD) season. Only three races remain on this year’s 10-race GTD schedule.
If a yellow flag had come out in that last hour, then I think we would have ended up in third, so it's really nice to be able to run green the whole time...
The Road America victory, the third for the ViperExchange.com No. 33 after a pair of wins last year at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Circuit of The Americas, put some distance between today’s triumph and a five-race run of bad luck to start the year.
"No doubt, it's been a difficult season so far for the 33 car and we've had a good car the whole season,” Keating said. “It's really great to finally stand on the top step of the podium with the 33 Viper. It was a really good race for us. We ran the exact strategy that we expected to run. We had a mistake-free race and really I feel like the race kind of came to us with it being green until the end.”
Keating, who has qualified an IMSA TUDOR Championship personal-best second the last two races, ran in the lead pack throughout his opening stint, set a fastest race lap and nearly took the lead on a restart. He pitted under green just shy of the race’s one-hour mark to turn the Viper over to Bleekemolen.
“Today we had a perfect race,” Bleekemolen said. “Everything ran well, no mistakes, really good pit stops, and because it was green for so long, you had to do everything good. That’s why we had a little gap at the end.”
The GTD field was split by several different fuel and pit-stop strategies but only the No. 33 team’s worked to perfection. Bleekemolen passed several cars and then took a lead the team would never lose when friend and former Viper teammate, Kuno Wittmer, pitted for fuel in his Aston Martin 20 minutes from the finish.
“If a yellow flag had come out in that last hour, then I think we would have ended up in third, so it's really nice to be able to run green the whole time and have the race come to us when Kuno and some others had to pit," Keating said. "When everything washed out, we had a really good cushion and could save fuel and ride to the finish. Jeroen did a great job, the whole team really, and Riley Motorsports gave us a great car.”