Ben Keating is set to pull double duty between cars in two different classes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the former race winner confirmed in seperate GT Daytona and Prototype Challenge entries for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
The Texan will drive both his season-long No. 33 Riley Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 in the Florida endurance classic, after sealing a deal with the Peter Baron-led Starworks squad this week.
It will mark Keating’s first multi-class attempt in the race, after previous double-duty attempts in 2012, 2015 and 2016, but each time with cars in the same class.
“I’m pretty excited,” Keating told Sportscrar365. “I love endurance racing and the Rolex 24 is my favorite race of the year.
“The way IMSA has the rules with the ability to get laps back and the fact that you can have something bad happen and be five or six laps down and still have a chance is pretty exciting.
“My view is that any car in a 24-hour race is a long shot. So I like being in two cars to double my chances.”
The deal for the one-off PC drive came through an initial test in a Starworks PC car at Road Atlanta last year, which Keating used as preparation for his LMP2 debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Oreca 03R Nissan.
Keating will be nominated to score points in the Riley-AMG GTD entry, where he’ll need to complete a minimum drive time of 5 hours, while only required to log 2 hours and 30 minutes in the PC car, per IMSA’s new-for-2017 minimum drive times.
The remainder of the driver lineup in the No. 8 Starworks entry has yet to be announced, but is likely to feature John Falb, who is listed alongside Keating in this weekend’s Roar Before the 24.
“If I had a choice, [the Mercedes-AMG is] where I want to have the better performance,” Keating said. “But you still get the opportunity to win a watch.
“As I look across all the different classes… where’s the easiest place to stand on the top step? The numbers would say it’s PC.”
Keating said he evaluated debuting his newly purchased Riley Mk. 30 Gibson LMP2 car for a bid for overall honors but ultimately elected to buy a seat with Starworks in PC instead.
“It’s a lot cheaper and my chances are a lot higher,” he said. “It would be really cool to win overall but a whole lot less chance of that actually happening. I like my chances better in PC.”
As for the chances of claiming victory in both PC and GTD, Keating admitted the prospect hasn’t quite crossed his mind yet.
“It sounds so ridiculous that I can’t even consider it,” he said. “Having said that, it’s possible.
“Even getting on the podium in both classes, how crazy ridiculous would that be to come up to victory circle in two different classes for the Rolex 24?
“It is possible and it would be incredibly exciting.”