Motorsport.com discussed the rapid progression of the GTD Viper squad with Ben Keating.
Sebring, Fla. - The Riley Technologies/TI Automotive No. 33 and No. 93 GTD Vipers stand alone in the paddock, but they are managing to make a lot of noise nonetheless. With the factory effort gone, all Viper fans look to Ben Keating and this two-car GTD effort to carry the flag for the brand.
It's pretty exciting ... It's a lot of pressure but we aren't only the last Viper in the series now, we're the only American-made car in the GTD class
So far, they've done just that, winning the Rolex 24 to kick off 2015. Now they've arrived at Sebring with a desire for more. Motorsport.com spoke with Ben Keating, part of the winning driver lineup from the January spectacle. He also owns ten dealerships in Texas, six of them being Viper cars and one which holds the honor as the number one volume Viper dealership in the world.
So, how does it feel to be alone as a marque? "It's pretty exciting. Being the number one volume Viper dealer means we have a ton of customers out there who are also fans and they want to see their car, their dealer win races. I'm friends with a bunch of them and it's interesting to now be the go-to team for all of Viper Nation."
"It's a lot of pressure but we aren't only the last Viper in the series now, we're the only American-made car in the GTD class," Keating added. "To be here getting to do what I love and representing the brand Viper Nation out there is really a big deal."
Going into Daytona, was the eventual triumph a surprise to Keating? "I'll say no. We had a car last year that was capable of staying on the lead lap but not capable of going for the win outright, but all year long, we were developing the car with Daytona in mind. We had a great car ... We were fastest at the ROAR so we went in with confidence that we could race for the win."
The preparation of this team is unbelievable and that's what makes the difference in these 12 and 24 hour races.
"There's no race out there anything harder to win than Daytona," Keating added. "So much can go wrong in 24 hours. Each track is a little different, but Daytona is extremely unique."
A turnaround worthy of recognition
If you want a good example of fortitude and perseverance, look no further than these guys. At Sebring in 2014, Keating escaped a fire that engulfed their race car (see to the left). That same car is the No. 33 this weekend ... The No. 33 will lead the GTD field to the green flag today.
"Being able to team up with Riley who builds the car and TI Automotive ... The synergy that has come with the team this year is absolutely incredible. The preparation of this team is unbelievable and that's what makes the difference in these 12 and 24 hour races. I'm feeling really good this weekend."
"We've had good sessions here and we're feeling good," Keating told Motorsport.com. "Our car is really strong under braking and Sebring is nice for us because there's a lot of big heavy braking zones. Our car really likes this track."
"The best I can say is that we're really hopeful that we can pull of the Florida sweep."