Viper Strikes Gold, takes hometown victory with Keating, Bleekemolen in Chevrolet Sports Car Classic

No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R Earns First 2016 Victory

Viper Strikes Gold, takes hometown victory with Keating, Bleekemolen in Chevrolet Sports Car Classic
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
Detroit atmosphere
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
Cars lined up
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
Cars lined up
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Detroit  – Co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 ViperExchange.com / Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R team picked a fine time to win their first race of the season as the made-in-Detroit race car scored a hometown victory in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers.

After qualifying sixth on the GT Daytona (GTD) grid Friday, Keating made his first appearance inside the top five just past the 30-minute mark in the 100-minute timed race. He eventually made it into the class lead for the final lap of his stint before pitting at the 37-minute mark in the race to hand the car over to Bleekemolen.

The Dutchman rejoined the field in second place behind the No. 96 aFe Power / Spectra Resources / United Steel / Valspar Paint BMW M6 GT3 of Jens Klingmann, but regained the lead after two laps when Klingmann pitted. Bleekemolen would hold the GTD lead for the remainder of the race, but not without heavy pressure from behind from Joerg Bergmeister in the No. 73 Park Place Porsche / Justice Brothers Inc. Porsche 911 GT3 R and Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.

It’s a huge deal winning with the Viper in its hometown,

Ben Keating

“This is a street circuit, so the smallest mistake can take you out of the race,” Bleekemolen said. “But at the same time you have to push right until the end. Ben did a lot of great laps at the end of his stint. I knew with Joerg Bergmeister behind me it wouldn’t be easy. He is famous for a lot of last-lap passes. It’s great what the team did with the pit stop. We knew it would be our chance so we took it and it worked out for us. So yes, it feels really great.”

He beat Bergmeister to the stripe by 2.489 seconds to collect the first victory for himself and Keating since the WeatherTech Championship race at Circuit of The Americas last September. It was Bleekemolen’s 16th major U.S. sports car victory (three in the WeatherTech Championship, 13 American Le Mans Series) and fifth for Keating (three WeatherTech Championship, two ALMS).

“It’s a huge deal winning with the Viper in its hometown,” Keating said. “I am Viper Exchange, the No. 1 volume Viper dealer in the nation and so I have a lot of great relationships with all the Viper people at plant, the Conner Avenue plant where they are hand-built right here in Detroit. So, it’s a big deal. There were a lot of emotional people who take a lot of pride in the Vipers. Hopefully we win on Saturday and sell on Monday.”

Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey finished second in the No. 73 Porsche for Park Place Motorsports, followed by Balzan and co-driver Christina Nielsen, who finished third in the No. 63 Ferrari. Balzan and Nielsen came into the race with a six-point lead in the GTD standings and extended that lead to eight, 126-118, over No. 23 Heart of Racing Porsche GT3 R co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas. Farnbacher and Riberas finished fourth for Team Seattle / Alex Job Racing.

Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis completed the top five in the No. 6 Stevenson Auto Group Audi R8 LMS GT3.

IMSA

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About this article

Series IMSA
Event Detroit
Sub-event Saturday race
Location The Raceway on Belle Isle
Drivers Ben Keating , Jeroen Bleekemolen
Teams Riley Motorsports
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