Ben Keating will contest the Michelin Endurance Cup races in Riley Motorsports’ full-season Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, having elected to not field a car of his own for the four endurance races.
The reigning GT Daytona Endurance Cup champion confirmed to Sportscar365 that he’ll join Lawson Aschenbach and Gar Robinson behind the wheel of the No. 74 Mercedes for the four IMSA long-distance races, with longtime co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen tentatively tabbed as the fourth driver for the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Keating explained that costs and the uncertainty over the Balance of Performance around the new-for-2020 Evo package played into his decision.
“It’s partly financial,” he told Sportscar365. “There’s a new Evo kit for the car.
“I currently own two Mercedes-AMG GT3s. I want to keep one and sell one but I don’t want to spend the money to upgrade any of them to the Evo kit just for four races.
“Clearly [IMSA knows] they made a mistake with Acura and Audi with the Evo kit deal. They won’t make that mistake again, which means the new Mercedes Evo is screwed.
“That’s my view on it and we’ll see what happens but my guess is the Evo will struggle BoP-wise because IMSA is not going to let a new Evo run away with it [again].”
Keating said Bleekemolen would complete the lineup for Daytona only if the Dutchman doesn’t land a full-season seat in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
However, the current driver market has posed a significant challenge for Bleekemolen’s goal of remaining in the series full-time.
“We’ve been together for six years and all these past years, even though they knew we’ve been together, I’ve had offers,” Bleekemolen told Sportscar365.
“People would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing next year?’
“This year, there’s been nothing. It’s been a change to the years before, for sure.”
Keating Targeting Double-Duty Daytona Drive
Keating said there’s a “pretty good chance” of seeing him contest Daytona in two different cars, with an eye on competing in the LMP2 class alongside his GTD commitments.
The Texan last pulled double duty in the race in 2017, at the wheel of a Riley-run Mercedes and a Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 in the now-defunct Prototype Challenge class.
“I don’t have anything under contract,” he said. “I’m talking to lots of people. I have a whole lot of ‘maybes’ some in GTD and some in LMP2.
“I’d probably prefer to do LMP2. I think I’d be good in either class but I’d fare very well in a P2 car.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody at DragonSpeed so I’ve seen their news that they’re coming in to see if they need a Bronze!
“It would be nice to run a second car.”