Ben Keating says he’s “honored” by the trust put into him from both JDC-Miller Motorsports and Cadillac to make his DPi debut and bid for overall victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a Bronze-rated driver.
Keating is set to again pull double-duty in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener, splitting time between the No. 5 Mustang Sampling-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R and the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, which he and Mikkel Jensen drove to the LMP2 class title last year.
The 50-year-old Texan, who took part in the LMP2 and GTD classes at the Rolex 24 in 2021, explained that a lower minimum drive time in the DPi category helped influence his decision to split his driving between the two prototype classes this year.
The DPi category imposes a two-hour minimum drive time compared to the four-and-a-half hours in the Pro-Am classes, which includes LMP2.
“I love being in two cars,” Keating told Sportscar365. “I think nine out of the last ten years I’ve been in two cars [at Daytona].
“Clearly I can do it and it’s no problem. But it’s a lot less demanding if I have to do six-and-a-half hours or seven hours of driving instead of nine hours of driving. That’s one of the reasons for it.
“This is my favorite race in the schedule, and in the world, as far as an event. How cool would it be to win first overall? It’s super exciting.
“There are only seven cars in the class. It’s the top level of professional sports car racing in the United States. It’s an all-pro class somewhat controlled by the various manufacturers.
“I’m the only non-professional or gentlemen driver in the whole [DPi] field.
“Clearly the class is not designed for that but I think because we won the LMP2 championship, because I’ve built good relationships around this paddock and I’ve proven that I’m not an idiot behind the wheel, I’ve been given an opportunity.
“I’ve been given an opportunity to be a gentlemen driver in that top class that nobody else has been given.
“I’m honored by that. It’s obviously a very special thing, not only for JDC to be willing to have me on the team but for Cadillac to be willing to have me on their team.”
Keating will turn his first laps in the Minnesota-based team’s Cadillac DPi during tomorrow’s opening day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24, sharing the car with Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Loic Duval.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m expecting that tomorrow I will do the fastest lap around Daytona International Speedway that I’ve ever done. That’s fun!
“I really like driving the LMP2 car, a prototype. I’ve looked at the lap times between LMP2 and DPi. The difference here last year was somewhere around two seconds.
“It’s not much. The DPi has a little bit better traction control, a little bit better damper and a little bit more power.
“I believe that the DPi car may be even a little bit easier on me as a driver than the LMP2 car.
“It’s one of those cases where I think the car is developed that much more that it’s not difficult to go fast or to stay within the limits of the tire or the car or the track.
“In the LMP2 car, it’s a spec class. Everybody’s in the same thing and we’re not allowed to get creative with [parts]. You really have to wheel it and be willing to take some risks and be more aggressive with it to get the speed out of it.”
Keating said he already has a preliminary plan in place for the race in what should result in less overall driving time compared to last year, where he logged 9.5 hours behind the wheel over a 17-hour period.
“I have to start the race in the LMP2 car as the Bronze has to start there,” he explained.
“I don’t know how many stints I’ll do there but however the race unfolds will determine what I choose to do over there.
“But when I get done with that driving at the start, then I’ll come over and concentrate completely on the DPi.
“Then when I’m done over there, I’ll go back and finish my time in the LMP2.
“I’m hoping that I could be done with seven hours of driving within the first 12 hours of the race.
“I’ve got a bunch of guests here… sponsors, friends, employees, and that will give me an opportunity to go get some sleep and spend some time with them on Sunday morning.”
While having been on the podium in the Rolex 24, Keating has never double-podiumed in his previous double-duty attempts, something he thinks that he has a “very good” chance in doing this time around.
“I believe that every car in a 24-hour race is a long shot,” he said. “But when you only have seven cars in DPi and ten in LMP2, clearly it can be my best chance.
“I’m honored by the fact that JDC and Cadillac have been willing to give me that spot to have an opportunity to run for the overall win.
“I want to represent myself well and represent them well.”