Seventh fastest GTD time in final Friday practice has team and drivers optimistic for race
The No. 33 ViperExchange.com Viper GT3-R team, and drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Emmanuel Collard and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, continued their top-10 pace Friday in final practice for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The No. 33 was seventh fastest in the GTD class with a top time of 1:48.584 (118.028 mph) in the final chance for teams to practice for the day-long Daytona classic. Later on Friday and early into this evening, the team and drivers quickly shifted focus to final race preparation and planning, for both man and machine.
Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, older brother of Keating’s full-season driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, played a part in putting the No. 33 through its final paces on Friday.
“The car is OK, I was out on old tires, bedding in brakes basically,” Sebastiaan Bleekemolen said. “I didn’t have too much time this week in the car, but based on my experience from the Roar and the test days in December, I think we can be quite fast. The car feels quite reliable.”
Collard was part of the overall race-winning team in 2005 and is a veteran sports car endurance racing driver.
“I will just try to be relaxed for tomorrow,” Collard said. “Try to get a good night’s sleep tonight to be ready for the race. I have been doing this for so long that I don’t really get worried about a race, I am just used to it and will be relaxed and ready.”
Still, the challenge of a day-long race is always a steep challenge for teams and drivers.
“It always amazes me how long a 24-hour race is,” Keating said. “I always wish I had been a little more conservative. I always like to think I am getting older, wiser and more experienced and maybe this is the year I pull it off.”