Ben Keating

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Ben Keating
Born (1971-08-18) August 18, 1971 (age 47)
Tomball, Texas
NationalityAmerican
Alma materTexas A&M University
EmployerOwner/Driver, Viper Exchange Racing
Owner, Port Lavaca Auto Group
Home townTomball, Texas
Tudor United SportsCar Championship career
Debut season2006
TeamsViperExchange.com
The Racers Group
Riley Motorsports
TI Automotive Racing
Wins2014 Grand Prix of Mosport
2014 Circuit of the Americas
2015 24 Hours of Daytona
Previous series
Viper Racing League
(2007–2008)
North American Road Racing Association
(2009–2010)
Dodge Viper Cup
(2010–2012)
North American Endurance Championship (2012)
American LeMans Series
(2013)
Championship titles
2008 Viper Racing League
National Champion
2009 & 2010 NARRA
National Champion
2011 & 2012 Dodge Viper Cup
National Champion

Ben Keating (Born August 18, 1971) is an American racing driver and business owner operating out of Tomball, Texas. Keating is the owner of Viper Exchange Racing, and since starting in 2006 he has competed in a number of North American endurance racing, road racing and Dodge Viper specific series, winning multiple championships. In addition to his racing endeavors, Keating is also the owner of 10 car dealerships across Texas, including the Port Lavaca Auto Group, and The Viper Exchange, a Viper specialty dealership. In 2015, Keating paired with legendary car designer Henrik Fisker to develop a high-performance sports car, the Force 1 V10, which debuted at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show.

Personal life[edit]

Ben Keating was born on August 18, 1971 in Tomball, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Keating attended Texas A&M University where he would graduate in 1994 with a Degree of Engineering, with Honors. While at A&M, Keating served as the president of the Industrial Engineering Society. After graduating, Keating went to work selling, eventually buying into his father's dealership in 1996. After rising to the position of general sales manager, Keating bought his first car dealership in 2002, and has gone on to purchase one dealership every year since.[1] Keating now owns 10 dealerships throughout Texas, in addition to The Viper Exchange, a Dodge Viper specialty dealer boasting the largest volume of Dodge Viper sales in the world.[2]

Racing[edit]

Viper Racing League and NARRA[edit]

Keating began racing in 2006 after receiving a weekend track driving course as a Christmas present from his wife. In 2006, he began racing a 2000 Dodge Viper GTS in the Viper Racing League (VRL), a league that began as track days for Viper enthusiasts. Keating received a DNF in his first race, an event at Sebring International Raceway. In 2007 Keating participated in the full VRL series and in 2008, his second full year in the league, Keating won the VRL National Championship.[3] After the 2008 season, the VRL reorganized into the North American Road Racing Association (NARRA).[4]

In 2009, Keating participated in the NARRA US GT Championship, a 13-round series at 7 venues across the Continental United States.[5] Driving a Viper Competition Coupe, Keating claimed the national championship. He would repeat this feat in 2010.

In 2010 Keating also began racing in a new NARRA-sponsored event, the 5-city, 10-race Dodge Viper Cup.[6] Driving the specially designed Viper ACR-X, Keating finished 2nd in the inaugural Viper Cup with race wins at Virginia International Raceway and Pocono Raceway.[7] Keating finished the series with 501 points, 106 points behind first place. During the 2011 Viper Cup, Keating would record 4 race wins (New Jersey Motorsports Park,[8] Virginia International Raceway,[9] Texas World Speedway [10] and Daytona). Going into the final race of the season Keating held a 58-point advantage in the Viper Cup standings (a win being worth 60), and claimed the national championship by 20 points despite being forced into 15th place by a late-race collision.[11][12] In 2012 Keating would dominate the series and repeat as national champion, recording 6 wins (Road Atlanta (both races),[13] Road America (both races), Monticello Motor Club,[14] and Watkins Glen) as well as three other top 5 finishes.[15]

Rolex Sports Car Series[edit]

Keating made his Rolex Sports Car Series debut at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2011, racing in the Viper Exchange.com No. 66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Racing for The Racer's Group (TRG), Keating and co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher, Tim George Jr. and Lucas Luhr placed 13th in their class (27th Overall), completing 612 laps with a total time of 21:40:37.038.[16]

The following year, Keating participated in a full season of the North American Endurance Championship, a subset of the Rolex Sports Car Series consisting of three races: the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the Six Hours of The Glen,[17] and the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.[18] Keating drove the No. 66 Porsche in all three races. Keating pulled double-duty during the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona, also taking a shift in The Racer's Group's No. 68 Porsche GT3 Cup.[19]

Keating would participate in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona again in 2013, driving the No. 66 car along with co-drivers Farnbacher, Kuno Wittmer, and Jorg Bergmeister. They would go on to place 20th in class (31st overall), completing 622 laps with a time of 23:57:15.712.[20]

American Le Mans Series[edit]

In 2013, Keating made the jump into the American Le Mans Series, competing in the series' final season. Keating, with co-drivers Damien Faulkner and Craig Stanton in the No. 66 Porsche, would finish 5th in the GT-challenge (GTC) class in the series' opening event, the 12 Hours of Sebring.[21] Keating would continue to race with Faulkner for most of the series. On September 21 Keating and Faulkner would score their first victory of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. In front of his friends and family from around Texas, Keating drove the first 70 minutes of the race, then handed off to Faulkner who completed the victory with a winning margin of 12.94 seconds.[22][23] Keating and Faulkner followed their first victory up with another winning effort at Virginia International Raceway.[24] The two late-season victories would prove a boon to Keating's final position in the standings, providing him with 40 of his 84 total points and earning him an 8th-place finish in the GTC class (out of 46 drivers).[25]

Tudor United SportsCar Championship[edit]

2014[edit]

After the American Le Mans Series merged into the Rolex Sports Car Series after the 2013 season, Keating participated in the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship season. Keating joined with Dutch siblings Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Dodge Viper GT3-R for Riley Motorsports. Joined by French driver Emmanuel Collard, Keating and the Bleekemolen brothers competed in the opening event, the 24 Hours of Daytona, completing 615 laps over the day long event, finishing 19th (40th overall).[26] During the subsequent event, the Twelve Hours of Sebring, Keating was driving the No. 33 Viper on the 13th lap when the Viper's driveshaft disconnect from the rear axle, severing a fuel line and starting a fire. After noticing the fire, Keating was able to stop and exit the vehicle without injury, although the team was forced to retire from the race.[27][28] The No. 33 car was up and running again under 2 months later for the event at Laguna Seca, as Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen completed the 2 hour race.[29] Keating and Jeroen recorded their first win of the series three races later at the SportsCar Grand Prix.[30] They would go on to record Top Five finishes in the next two races, placing third in the Brickyard Grand Prix (Indianapolis Motor Speedway [31]) and fourth in the Road America 500.[32] Keating would record his second win of the season with a win at his home-state event at the Circuit of the Americas.[33] The two wins, combined with his two top 5 finishes, propelled Keating into 14th place in the final driver points standings, despite his misfortune at Sebring.[34]

2015[edit]

Keating started off the 2015 season pulling double-duty at the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, taking turns in both the No. 93 and No. 33 Vipers. Keating would score his first win of the young season in the No. 93 Viper with previous Daytona co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher (2011–2013) and Kuno Wittmer (2013), along with American Al Carter. The No. 33 Viper would come in 9th in the event.[35] Keating would drive in both cars again in the subsequent race, the 2015 12 Hours of Sebring, guiding the No. 93 car (with Carter and German Marc Goossens) to a Top Five finish. The No. 33 Viper (with Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen) would again come in 9th after a radiator issue late in the race knocked the car out of the lead.[36][37] After Sebring, a string of technical and track issues befell Keating and the No. 33 car. Early in Keating's opening shift of the 2015 Monterey Grand Prix, a storm drain grate that was jutting out of the track did massive damage to the right side of the Viper, forcing significant repairs and knocking the No. 33 out of contention.[38][39] The No. 33 car was then forced to pit for significant repairs early at Belle Isle after damage to the oil tank.[40][41] Keating and Bleekemolen would experience another early issue at the 2015 Six Hours of The Glen, but were able to recover and finish the race in the 6th place overall.[42][43] Running a full race without any stops for repairs, Keating and Bleekemolen rebounded with a second-place finish at the 2015 Northeast Grand Prix, finishing just three and a half seconds behind the leader.[44][45] Keating and Bleekemolen followed up with another strong performance and snagged their first class win of the year in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America.[46][47] As a result of their win at Road America, the No. 33 car was placed under some competitive restrictions limiting the performance of the car during the next race, the Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIR. These restrictions limited the No. 33 Viper to a 7th-place finish, preventing Keating from taking a third consecutive podium.[48][49] Keating and Bleekemolen would come back strong though, and charged back into the winner's circle with a come-from-behind victory at Circuit of the Americas. Keating was hit with a penalty early, but strong driving from him and Jeroen allowed them to overcome that setback and take the victory.[50][51] For the season's final race, the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen joined Keating and brother Jeroen in the No. 33 Viper. Unfortunately, Keating's early spin-out on the rain-soaked track resulted in a lap deficit the team could not overcome, and the No. 33 car finished 12th in class.[52][53] However, Keating's late season push of three podiums and two wins in the last five events were enough to help overcome the No. 33 team's early troubles, and Keating and Bleekemolen finished in 6th place in the points standings for the GTD Class.[54]

2016[edit]

In December 2015, Viper Exchange announced they would again be sponsoring two Vipers in the 2016 running of the 24 Hours of Daytona.[55] Keating will once again take shifts in both the No. 93 and No. 33 Vipers as he seeks to defend his 2015 victory. Keating will be joined in the No. 33 by Dominik Farnbacher, who helped drive the No. 93 to Daytona victory in 2015, and Le Mans co-drivers Marc Miller and Jeroen Bleekemolen.[55] Keating will be joined in the No. 93 car by Trans-Am Series TA2 Champion Gar Robinson.[55]

2016 High Lights Keating followed up on 2015’s winning success with his most successful IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season yet in 2016. Racing the full season with Bleekemolen for the third-straight year, Keating once again kicked off the schedule with double duty in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. He and co-drivers Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss, Gar Robinson and Damien Faulkner put the No. 93 Viper on the GTD-class podium for the second-straight year after the 2015 Daytona victory. The No. 93 gained three positions in the race’s final hour for a third-place finish. Keating and the No. 33 team in turn recovered from a Saturday night accident to finish 10th which made ViperExchange.com the only two-car GTD team in the Rolex 24 to place both of its entries in the top 10. Keating focused solely on the No. 33 Viper with Bleekemolen for the rest of the year after Daytona but encountered some tough going one race later in the 12 Hours of Sebring for the third year in a row. Bleekemolen was leading in the race’s opening hour when the No. 33 suffered a rear stub axle failure. The entry returned after some lengthy repairs and soldiered home to a 12th-place finish with Marc Miller co-driving with Keating and Bleekemolen.

After great strategy and fast pit stops produced a sixth-place finish in Round 3 at Laguna Seca, Keating scored his first win of the year in Detroit. A popular victory in the hometown of the Viper, Keating stayed in touch with the lead pack throughout his race-opening stint after qualifying sixth, racing his way into the lead as the GTD field cycled through pit stops. Bleekemolen took over and kept the No. 33 up front to the finish.

Keating, Bleekemolen and the No. 33 team stayed competitive in the summer stretch of races that followed Detroit, frequently relying on great strategy and fast pit stops when the Viper didn’t have the pace of other GTD cars within IMSA regulations. The run included fourth at Watkins Glen, 11th at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, after a late contact incident while leading, and a third-place finish at Lime Rock Park. The year’s second victory followed one race after Lime Rock at Road America where Keating and Bleekemolen co-drove to the victory for the second-year-in-a-row. The win moved Keating, Bleekemolen and ViperExchange.com to third in the GTD class point standings, putting them in contention for solid championship finish for the first time.

A sixth-place finish at VIRginia International Raceway kept Keating in the championship hunt and, despite a disappointing 13th-place result in his home race at Circuit of The Americas, Keating and the No. 33 team arrived at Road Atlanta second in points for the season-ending Petit Le Mans. Again co-driving with Miller, Keating and Bleekemolen did everything they could to gain a great result, starting from the pole and winning what would be the final race for a Viper in IMSA GTD competition. Although the championship-winning Ferrari team build a big enough cushion to win the championship despite the No. 33 team’s strong finish at Road Atlanta, Keating and company finished second in the team and driver GTD standings with 303 points, second only to the Ferrari’s 330 points.

Now set to race a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in 2017, Keating brought a successful three-year run in the Viper GT3-R to a winning close at the Petit Le Mans 2016 finale. In total, Keating drove a Viper GT3-R to eight IMSA GTD race wins from 2014 to 2016.

The 2016 season also saw Keating compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second-straight year. After debuting in a GTE-Am class Viper GTS-R in 2015 with Bleekemolen and Miller, Keating switched to the LMP2 division in 2016, co-driving an open-top Nissan Oreca 03 with Bleekemolen and Marc Goossens. Despite a race-long string of issues, Keating finished Le Mans for the first time, driving the Oreca across the finish line for a 15th-place result in class.

The Sports Car Classic on Belle Isle: First Place GT Daytona (GTD) class victory

Le Mans: Finished the 24 hours of Le Mans P35 overall and P15 in class after electronic issues in the Murphy Prototype.

24 Hours of Le Mans[edit]

2015 24 Hours of Le Mans[edit]

On April 16, 2015, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest announced that the Viper Exchange.com/Riley Motorsports entry into the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans had been approved, with American Marc Miller joining Keating and Jeroen as co-driver. The team will drive the No. 53 Dodge Viper GTS-R in the GT-am class. The team was first among the reserves for the event, and the entry gives Keating the opportunity to accomplish the feat of winning both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans events in the same year. This will be the first 24 Hours of Le Mans for both Keating and Miller, while Jeroen will be earning his 10th consecutive start in the event.[56] Jeroen finished fourth in class in qualifying, and so the team had good position for the start of the race. Bleekemolen continued the strong start with his opening shift in the car, leading for most the third hour, and Keating continued to maintain a top-four position during the second shift. Miller took the third shift through much of the night, and the team entered the final shift, again driven by Bleekemolen, in fifth place. However, Bleekemolen began to notice issues with the gearbox, and after replacing the gearbox failed to resolve the problems, the No. 53 car was forced to retire from the race at 1:45 PM, having completed 304 laps.[57][58]

24 Hours of Le Mans results[edit]

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
2015 United States Riley MotorsportsTI Auto Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
United States Marc Miller
SRT Viper GTS-R GTE
Am
304 DNF DNF
2016 Republic of Ireland Murphy Prototypes Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Belgium Marc Goossens
Oreca 03R-Nissan LMP2 323 34th 15th
2017 United States Keating Motorsport United States Ricky Taylor
Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Riley Mk. 30-Gibson LMP2 312 47th 20th
2018 United States Keating Motorsport Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Germany Luca Stolz
Ferrari 488 GTE GTE
Am
334 28th 3rd

Partnership with VLF Automotive[edit]

Origins[edit]

VLF Automotive is a joint venture between designer Henrik Fisker, former GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz and manufacturer Gilbert Villarreal. Lutz and Villarreal began VL automotive in 2012, and in 2013 unveiled the VL Destino, a luxury automobile based off Fisker's Karma electric car.[59] However, VL did away with the Karma's fully electric powertrain and replaced it with the 6.2L V8 GM engine used in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.[60][61] Eventually Fisker joined the team, which then became VLF automotive.[59] VLF then began work on a new automobile built around the 8.4L V10 of the Dodge Viper, which would become the Force 1 V10.

Keating and the Force 1[edit]

Fisker and Keating met in 2015 and quickly developed a partnership, combining Fisker's legendary designs with Keating's extensive expertise with performance vehicles, particularly his intimate knowledge of the Dodge Viper.[62] In particular, Keating helped design the active suspension used in the Force 1 V10 using his decade of experience racing Vipers to tune the suspension for both on-the-road and on-the-track needs.[62][63] As part of the partnership, the first run of the Force 1 V10, totaling 50 cars, will be sold entirely through Keating's Viper Exchange dealership.[64]

References[edit]

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  57. ^ "Viper Exchange Leads in Competitive 24 Hours of Le Mans Debut Only to End up Just Short of Finish". Retrieved 2015-07-12.
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  59. ^ a b "Our Story". Archived from the original on 2016-01-14. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  60. ^ "Fisker Karma Gets a 638-HP Corvette Heart Transplant". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  61. ^ "Destino: Bob Lutz's Corvette-powered Fisker Karma". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  62. ^ a b "745-HP Force 1 V10 Debuts at 2016 North American International Auto Show as the New American Supercar". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  63. ^ "The VLF Force 1 is a Viper-powered supercar with a Lamborghini price tag". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  64. ^ "VLF Force 1 V10 is a rebodied Viper priced like a Lamborghini". Retrieved 2016-01-15.