With his businesses and family in the path of Hurricane Harvey, Ben Keating has been replaced by Trent Hindman at the wheel of the No. 33 Riley Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 for this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway.
The last-minute driver change for the GT Daytona title-contending entry comes as the popular Texan heads home to brace for the impact of the Category 3 Hurricane, which is due to make landfall this evening.
More than 35 inches of rain is forecast for the Texas coastline through early next week, coupled with 120 mph winds and massive flooding expected where many of Keating’s auto dealerships are located.
Keating left VIR Friday morning for the airport after turning laps in opening practice, according to co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen.
“For Ben it’s a tough deal with all the stuff going on back home,” Bleekemolen told Sportscar365.
“He has 17 dealerships there all in the area and his house is there. His wife is still there and he felt he needed to go back and be there.
“He just hopes to get there before it really hits, because otherwise he can’t get in.”
Hindman, who currently leads the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro class championship, as well as sitting second in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS title race, has been drafted in for the remainder of the event
The Silver-rated driver, who is now set to pull triple-duty this weekend, will turn his first laps in the Riley Mercedes in this afternoon’s second practice session.
“We had to see whoever is here, who is Silver or Bronze and who is super fast,” Bleekemolen said.
“The team sat down, had a bit of a discussion and looked at all the guys that are here and they came up with Trent.
“He’s a good guy. I’ve raced against him a couple of times in CTSC and once last year in Lamborghini Super Trofeo. He’s always up front. I think he deserves a chance in this series as well.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity and I expect him to be quick. So I think we should do well.”
Bleekemolen and Keating entered the weekend second in the GTD championship, 15 points behind Scuderia Corsa’s Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan.