Driver Spotlight: Ben Keating
Driver: No. 33 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R
How does it feel returning to your home race, as defending race winners?
“There is definitely something about racing close to home. It was special to win the final American Le Mans Series race at COTA, and it was special to win the first TUDOR Championship race at COTA. I had over 100 guests at the race last year, and of course they all expect a great result. I have around 50 guests coming this weekend, and I have tried to temper their expectations. It is exciting to race in Texas and at a place where I get to put in so many laps.”
With the Viper having received a number of BoP changes this year, is it sometimes hard to keep motivation up?
“It has definitely been frustrating at times. I wish there were no politics in racing. I wish we didn’t get punished for great engineering, and testing, and developing/improving our car. The fact is that we have really worked hard to improve our car this year and we have been slowed down because of it. It is easy to joke that we have to give everybody else a chance, but it does make me question why I spend the time and money to develop the car. Seems like I could just go slow with a crappy car and and get ‘BoP’d’ into competitiveness.”
What are your favorite aspects of COTA?
“I absolutely love COTA. First of all, I think It is the safest track we race at. Second, it is just such a spectacular facility. From a track perspective, I love the long narrowing esses at the beginning, and I love the big carousel in the back half that falls away from you as you drive around it. Lots of fun!”
You made your debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Did it live up to your expectations?
“Well beyond my expectations! It is so different than anything we have in the U.S., that it is really tough to compare Le Mans to another race. Le Mans is more of a one-week event, where as in the U.S., a race tends to be something you watch and go home. We did well there and hope to get an opportunity to go back in 2016. I have learned quite a bit and hope to be able to enjoy the ‘event-ness’ atmosphere a little more next time around.”
You run a very successful car business (ViperExchange.com). How are you able to connect the racing activities to the showroom?
“There is definitely a big connection. I was actually a Viper racer before I became much of a Viper retailer. The Viper community is fairly small and close, and I had to prove I wasn’t a poser before I could earn their trust.
“Today, we are the No. 1 volume Viper retailer in the world because of Viper racing. We use our racing to develop parts for Viper street cars and we have a very successful performance business that works very well with the retail side.
“Viper is a passion of mine. It is more than just “any old car”. I want to race a Viper and I want to create the environment that makes people want to buy a Viper from me.”