Dodge Viper team ready for 24 Hours of Le Mans

Keating, Bleekemolen and Miller reunited with Riley Motorports.

Dodge Viper team ready for 24 Hours of Le Mans
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Miller
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Marc Miller and Ben Keating
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Marc Miller and Ben Keating
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Ben Keating
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Ben Keating
#53 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Miller
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Le MANS, France – Team drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller have arrived in France in preparation for next weekend’s 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in which the trio will co-drive the No. 53 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R in the GTE-Am division.

Returning to Le Mans less than a week after participating in last Sunday’s annual Le Mans Pre-Test, Keating, Bleekemolen and Miller are reuniting with a roster of Riley Motorsports teammates and support personnel that will be nearly complete by the end of the weekend.

Sunday’s test, which was productive but a bit challenging due to mixed weather conditions, marked the Le Mans debut for both Keating and Miller.

“The weather was tough, I did not get any dry laps, so I still have a lot to learn during race week,” Keating said. “I expect to see big gains from additional track time, but I got valuable time in wet conditions at the test and that could be great for the race.”

Bleekemolen is preparing for his 10th Le Mans start but first in a Viper. He co-drove to a P2-class victory in the 2008 running of the 24 hour classic.

'Positive test' 

“It was a very positive test,” Bleekemolen said. “It was hard because of all the changing weather conditions, but we could do many laps and learned a lot. The main goal of the day was to get the 10 mandatory laps for Ben and Marc in, which we did. After that, we could work on the car and try things both in the wet and dry.”

All three drivers will be racing a Viper GTS-R for the first time, but Keating and Bleekemolen have years of winning experience in other top-tier Viper race cars. The teammates currently race a ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Viper GT3-R in the U.S. based IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and earned a pair of victories in that series’ GT Daytona (GTD) class last year. Keating was also a co-driver in this year’s season-opening GTD-winning Viper at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“I still have a ton to learn in the Viper GTS-R,” Keating said. “It is very different than our GTD car. I think it will come during race week, and I also think I will continue to get better and better during the race.”

Miller ran his first race in a Viper GT3-R last month at Laguna Seca in California, qualifying second and leading more than a dozen laps at the start of the race. Le Mans was another new challenge that Miller met with initial success.

“My first laps at Le Mans went smoothly,” Miller said. “I believe both the team and the officials did an incredible job of preparing me so that even on my first laps I didn't feel lost out there on a legendary eight-plus mile circuit. I was able to get my mandatory laps in without any drama and got comfortable in the car quickly, even in mixed conditions.” 

The Riley team and Dodge SRT Motorsports won the 2014 IMSA TUDOR Championship GTLM team and driver championships with Viper GTS-Rs.

Different car

“I like the car,” Bleekemolen said. “It's very different to the GTD car, as the regulations and tires are different, but as the team proved last year winning the championship, it is a great car.”

Miller welcomed the opportunity to get some additional time behind the wheel of the GTS-R after completing his mandatory laps, even if it was in the wet.

“I was especially happy to have had the chance to go back out in wet conditions since that is likely something that might happen during our race,” Miller said. “Having that experience in damp and wet conditions will be invaluable.

The official on-track schedule for the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans begins Wednesday and Thursday with a pair of late-afternoon into-evening practice and qualifying sessions.

Next weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans race, June 13 - 14, can be seen live in the U.S. with 25 hours of total programming on the FOX Sports Networks.

Adam Saal

shares
comments
Benoît Tréluyer: It’s the simple things that make Le Mans
Previous article

Benoît Tréluyer: It’s the simple things that make Le Mans

Next article

François Hollande will attend the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours

François Hollande will attend the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours
Load comments
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Prime

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans Prime

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload Prime

How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload

The 23-car GTE Am field promises to be one of the most open in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with the added jeopardy of managing the enthusiasm of amateur drivers to boot, as Absolute Racing Porsche driver Marco Seefried explains

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021