On the heels of Monday’s announcement that SRT Motorsports will not return to the TUDOR Championship next year, Ben Keating, the series’ only privateer Viper entrant, is contemplating his options for 2015.
Keating, the owner of Texas-based Viper Exchange, the highest-volume Dodge Viper dealer in the world, confirmed to Sportscar365 plans to enter the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring, with the intention of continuing for the remainder of the season.
However, he remains uncertain what the long-term affects of the factory’s withdrawal will mean for his program.
“I’m contemplating what this announcement means for me,” Keating told Sportscar365. “I want to come back to the TUDOR Championship. It’s not a financial question. It’s a question of whether the car will be competitive or not.”
Keating and co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen ended the season with two class wins and three podium finishes, in what proved to be an up-and-down year for the Riley Motorsports-run entry.
With Keating’s privateer Viper having been run under the SRT Motorsports tent, and benefiting from some of the factory’s financial and engineering resources, he’s unclear how competitive the GT3-R package will be in GTD next year.
“Whether it’s engineering support or development support or whatever, it’s a big hit for me for the GTLM team to pull out,” he said. “Obviously, it’s much easier for Riley to add a third car than it is to have a single-car team.
“There’s also a lot of economies of scale that will no longer exist, which will make it more difficult.
“Without having the factory there, I will lose the political clout that exists among manufacturers. That’s extremely significant in a series where you have a bunch of different makes racing against each other.
“Because we did well at several races and generally qualified well, we have a big target on our back. Without having a manufacturer there to argue the points [in BoP]…. Without SRT there, I can only expect it to become more expensive and more difficult.”
While having raced Vipers in a club and professional level for the last eight years, Keating remains committed to the platform.
However, the two-time Viper Cup champion does not want Balance of Performance to get in the way of his championship chase.
“The thing is that I love racing, I love racing a Viper. There’s lots of different places that I can go play,” he said.
“You can’t make much stronger of a statement than the sponsor of the North American Endurance Championship to not show up at the last race.
“If we turn into a scenario like the P2s had to endure, then it would be silly for me to waste my money.”
Keating said co-driver Bleekemolen will return to the team, while there’s outside chance of his second Viper GT3-R being fielded for Daytona. He’s unsure if a move to GTLM, possibly with the ex-factory Viper GTS-Rs, would even be up for consideration at this point.
“I’ll be at Daytona for sure and I suspect that I’ll be at Sebring too,” he said. “I believe we’ll purchase the entire year’s entry to guarantee a spot for the full season and take it as it goes.
“I enjoy racing at the top level of endurance racing in the U.S., which is the TUDOR Championship, and that’s where I’d like to stay. I just want to stay competitive. That’s all I’m looking for.”