No. 33 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R team looks for second-straight home Circuit of The Americas Win Saturday
AUSTIN, Texas (September 17, 2015) – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R team returns to its home-state of Texas this weekend ready to defend its 2014 victory in Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of The Americas.
The ninth of 10 races on the 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class schedule, Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans race can be seen live on FOX Sports 2 this Saturday, September 19, at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The race will be rebroadcast on FOX Sports 1 this Sunday, September 20, beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Keating, Bleekemolen and Viper Exchange – headquartered in Tomball, Texas in the greater Houston area – scored their second of two 2014 victories last year at Circuit of The Americas. Texas-native Keating, the principal of Viper Exchange, is actually looking for his third-straight Circuit of The Americas victory after first winning at the track in IMSA ALMS GTC competition in 2013.
With extra weight we don't know exactly where we stand but it will make our lives tough, but we will be even happier if we do well.
The team and drivers are typically positive returning to Texas but some recent rules adjustments may make another win a tough task this weekend. Although IMSA has allowed the team to run a larger engine air restrictor after some performance-sapping restrictions one race ago at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), the Viper remains the heaviest car in the GTD division.
“I have spent a bunch of time telling my guests and fans not to expect a three-peat although there definitely is something special about racing at home,” Keating said. “With the recent changes to the IMSA Balance of Performance (BoP), I think the Viper will be more competitive than it was at VIR, but we will need some serious luck to win again. Definitely more positive than at VIR, excited to be racing at home, excited to be racing at a place where I've had so much success, and, cautiously optimistic that we could have the perfect race and be in contention for a podium at the end.”
Built for Formula 1, Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is a long 3.4-mile course with 20 turns.
“Based on the current package we have, we are 55 pounds heavier than when we won at Road America two races ago,” Keating said. “Over the length of a lap, and in a 50 minute-stint on tires, the weight makes a big difference. You can't escape physics. Circuit of The Americas is a track where the extra weight could make a large difference with long, narrowing esses and the big brake zones.”
Even with the challenge at hand, Bleekemolen, a native of Holland, is happy to be back in Austin.
“It's great to go back to COTA,” Bleekemolen said. “I always enjoy it there. Defending the win won't be easy for sure, but that is what we are going to try hard for. We will be more competitive then we were at VIR, which is great. With extra weight we don't know exactly where we stand but it will make our lives tough, but we will be even happier if we do well.”
Official IMSA TUDOR Championship action gets underway today, Thursday, September 17, at COTA with morning and afternoon practice sessions. Friday features a third and final one-hour practice session at 9:10 a.m. CDT with GTD qualifying that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. CDT. Race-day Saturday starts with a 20-minute warm-up at 8 a.m. CDT before the 11:35 a.m. CDT start of the two-hour and 40-minute race.