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Keating explains decision to bow out of WEC, join United in IMSA

Ben Keating has explained why he has decided to make this season his last in the World Endurance Championship and embark on a new chapter in IMSA with United Autosports in 2024.

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It was announced late last month that Keating will join United for a full season in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, sharing the squad’s ORECA 07 with a yet-to-be-named second driver and enduro racer Alex Quinn, as the team switches its focus following the WEC’s decision to scrap the LMP2 class for 2024.

The American driver currently races in the WEC for Corvette Racing in the GTE Am class, but had previously suggested it was unlikely he would remain in the series in 2024 as the current generation of GTE machinery makes way for GT3 cars.

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Now Keating has clarified that a desire to spend less time at the race track was behind his decision to only contest IMSA, describing his title win for Corvette - sealed at the Monza round in July - as an ideal way to leave the WEC.

“It’s less about GT3 and more about the time,” the Texan told Motorsport.com. “Right now, I’m doing two full seasons and spending about a third of my year at a race track. I have other places I want and need to spend my time. 

“I have really loved my time in WEC, but they are going to eight races next year so that would mean even more time away. It just seems like a good time to stop, and especially after winning back-to-back titles.

“That said, if they kept LMP2 in WEC, I would have been hard-pressed not to choose that over doing LMP2 in IMSA. But I would still have only done one.”

 

While Keating is stepping away from the WEC, he still plans to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours with United, as he eyes a return to the LMP2 ranks at La Sarthe for the first time since 2017.

The 52-year-old bronze-rated driver is currently driving for the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports outfit in IMSA, but without being certain of winning the Jim Trueman Award that guarantees an entry at Le Mans, he felt he had to look elsewhere to be sure of being able to get one of the 15 spots that will be reserved for LMP2 cars in 2024.

“I realised that it’s possible for me to win the IMSA LMP2 championship and still not win the automatic entry, because the automatic entry [Jim Trueman Award] includes Daytona and the championship itself doesn’t,” explained Keating.

“When we put the deal together, we had not won at Road America yet and it looked like I had no chance of winning the automatic entry. George Kurtz had a pretty big lead; he got second place at Daytona and I was seventh. 

“So I had to consider which teams are most likely to get spots at Le Mans. There were 26 LMP2s on the grid this year, and there will only be 15 next year. It will be hard to get one of those spots.

“WRT is going to Hypercar and won’t have a LMP2 programme, JOTA won’t either. Both of them also said they wouldn’t be able to support an LMP2 programme with PR1. After those two teams, I felt United was the best bet to guarantee myself an entry at Le Mans. 

“If I entered under my own name, I don’t think they would get an entry, and if PR1 entered, I don’t think they would get an entry either. 

“I love the people at PR1, we’re like family, I love racing for them. But the big difference maker for me was getting into Le Mans.”

 

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