Ben Keating says that the transition from an LMP2 car to a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo has been the hardest part of his double-duty driving role for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Bronze-rated Texan will tackle the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in a PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and a Riley Motorsports Mercedes, and is the only competitor racing in two cars.
It will mark the fifth time that Keating has featured in more than one entry with the most recent attempt being in 2017 when he drove a Riley-entered Mercedes alongside a Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 Prototype . Challenge entry.
His co-drivers in the Mercedes Evo – which is contesting the Michelin Endurance Cup – will be Lawson Aschenbach, Gar Robinson and Felipe Fraga while Simon Trummer, Nick Boulle and Gabriel Aubry are with him in the PR1 Oreca.
At the pre-event Roar test, Keating joked that he “could have made it easier” for himself in the qualifying sessions used to determine pit box positions for the race.
“It’s nice to get in a car that’s had a season or two under its belt to get everything sorted out,” said Keating, who is racing an LMP2 for the first time since the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans when he drove a Riley Mk. 30 Gibson.
“I really enjoy driving the LMP2. It suits my driving style well, maybe even better than a GT car. I really enjoy using the aero grip.
“I’m racing in two cars for the race and I found [during the Roar] that it was pretty hard to go over from the LMP2 to the GT car.
“I qualified both cars and I spent the whole day before in the GT3 because it’s a whole lot easier to make the transition back to more grip and more power.
“Truth be told, I could have made it easier for myself. We qualified 12th in the AMG. If I would have qualified last, I would have had a shorter walk between pit boxes during the race!”
Keating has already worked out how he is going to approach the race from the time management side, with IMSA’s rules dictating which car he gets into first.
“In the LMP2 class, you require a Bronze driver who must qualify and start the car [while] in the GTD class, either a Silver or Bronze must qualify and start the car,” he said.
“I’m in a position where I’m obligated to qualify and start the LMP2. We’ll see how it works out.
“I’m planning to run two hours in a car and start a two-hour stopwatch when I get out, and then see when it makes sense for me to get in another car. I need to talk with all my engineers and strategists to make sure we can work it out.”
Keating admitted that he didn’t expect to be the only driver attempting double duty.
“I’m surprised there aren’t more people doing it, to be honest. Two years ago I did PC and GTD, so it’s true that in years past it’s been in the same team – both Vipers or both Porsches or whatever.
“The good news is that both the Riley guys and the PR1 guys are good guys. It’s a pretty laid-back scenario.
“I have to do four and a half hours minimum drive time in each car, so I need to do at least nine hours which will probably end up being nine and a half or ten.
“I would expect to have all of my drive time done in both cars by the time 18 hours comes around. My job in either car, for the first 18 hours of the race, is just to stay on the lead lap and keep it clean.
“The numbers suggest that we have a better chance in LMP2, just because there are fewer competitors. But when I did LMPC there were only five cars in the race.
“In that year, a co-driver got mixed up with a Porsche in the first stint and we ended up in the tires. The car was never the same and we finished fifth of five cars.
“So I feel like we’ve got a really good shot, but so does everybody else.”