Come-from-behind victory second-in-a-row in Texas for ViperExchange.com and third-straight at COTA for Keating
Austin, Texas – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R team scored a come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
The hard-earned win was the second of the season for Keating, Bleekemolen and ViperExchange.com and their second-straight at COTA after driving the No. 33 to victory in last year’s Lone Star Le Mans.
The win also gave Keating a personal “three-peat” at COTA as the back-to-back Viper victories were preceded by his 2013 victory in a Porsche in IMSA ALMS GTC competition.
“We’re just so excited,” Keating said. “We won the last ALMS race here in 2013. We won the first IMSA TUDOR race here last year but I just didn’t think we had the car that would win today. My guess is we were the fifth or sixth fastest car here today, but the race came to us and I’m just happy to be on the top step again. I had 50 guests here, the whole Viper Club of Texas was across the way. It’s just super exciting.”
Some cars spun, some cars had penalties, some cars did the wrong thing for strategy and I overtook a few, so it was a really nice race and pure racing,
The win was far from easy after the No. 33 was hit with a penalty after the first pit stops just 30 minutes into the race. Keating inadvertently drove through a red light at the pit exit and was brought back in for a 60-second stop-and-hold penalty.
Keating returned to the race on the lead lap but was 10th in the GT Daytona (GTD) class well behind the leaders. He ripped off a string of quick race laps throughout his second stint and handed the Viper off to Bleekemolen during a well-timed yellow flag pit stop.
Bleekemolen rejoined the race in eighth and soon raced his way into the top five. He advanced to fourth and could see the race leader and the second and third place cars in front of him as the race entered its final hour.
“It was great,” Bleekemolen said. “For me, it was one of the most exciting races I’ve done because I came in the car pretty far in the back but after a yellow we were all together and had some great fights.”
Bleekemolen’s charge to the front included an action-packed two laps 45 minutes from the finish when he jumped from fourth to first, taking a lead he would hold until the finish.
“Some cars spun, some cars had penalties, some cars did the wrong thing for strategy and I overtook a few, so it was a really nice race and pure racing,” Bleekemolen said. “I had to fight so hard and it feels so much better if you come out on top.”
The victory was the second for the ViperExchange.com No. 33 in the last three races after winning for the first time this season at Road America in August.
The ViperExchange.com team is run by Riley Motorsports while its affiliated company, Riley Technologies, designed and built the Viper GT3-R.
“It was a great win today,” said Bill Riley (center in picture), Riley Motorsports Team Director. “We had an issue with the penalty early but then we just kept pushing. The race came to us and a lot of people had a hard time. After we had our issue, we were just like clockwork, so it was clear sailing.”
Next up for ViperExchange.com and the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, October 1 – 3.
“We hope to finish the championship in a strong way,” Bleekemolen said. “It isn’t done, but we’re pretty far behind after some bad races early in the season, so realistically we just have to give it our all and see where we can finish. We have to try and win another one.”