By Patrick Rall
Ben Keating and Riley Technologies are teaming up to put together the first new SRT Viper GT3-R race team with a planned debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Keating, who runs Tomball Dodge in Tomball Texas and is responsible for a huge number of Viper sales each year, was incredibly successful in the Dodge Viper Cup behind the wheel of his Viper Exchange sponsored Viper SRT10 ACR-X including a championship win in 2010. After that Viper Cup success, Keating made the decision to snatch up the very first new Viper GT3-R to go endurance racing and he turned to the Viper experts at Riley Technologies to prepare his car for the Daytona debut. Riley is the same company that prepares both of the 2013 SRT Viper GTS-R race cars that are competing in the American LeMans Series.
“I’m passionate about the car. I’ve had lots of success in the car and as soon as I heard there was going to be a GT3 Viper race car developed, I was the first person in line to jump on it. I feel like I’ve got the best car, the best class structure and the best co-driver. Everything is fitting together perfectly for success,” said Keating. “I don’t have the time to invest to be a professional sports car driver. However, I am passionate about racing and I’ve been successful in a Viper. I feel I can measure up extremely well compared to other amateur drivers, especially driving a Viper.”
Joining Ben Keating in the #33 Viper Exchange SRT Viper GT3-R will be experienced professional racer Jeroen Bleekemolen. Bleekemolen was on the Dodge Viper GTS-R team that won the 2001 FIA GT1 champship with his current accolades including a win this year at the 12 Hours of Sebring and wins each of the past two years in the 24 Hours of Dubai.
“I think the Viper is going to be one of the best cars in the GT Daytona Class,” said Bleekemolen. “That’s one of the main reasons I’m pleased to join this team. The team is very strong and the Viper is one of the best cars out there. I raced the Oreca Viper back in 2001 for the GT1 championship, so I have some experience with the Viper.”
Keating and the Riley team will first hit the track for closed testing in October with expectations of open track testing in November before making its racing debut next January for the 24 hour race at Daytona International Speedway.
The 2013 SRT Viper GT3-R enters the world of endurance racing as the first mass produced GT3 car that is designed and engineered in the USA. The Chevrolet Corvette will be among the competitors but the group responsible for homologation is based out of Germany by Callaway. The Viper GT3-R will debut in the USCR but it will also be eligible for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), North American Road Racing Association (NARRA), Pirelli World Challenge GT Class and International GT3 Championships.