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Keating Eyeing Full Seasons in Both IMSA, WEC for 2021

Ben Keating keen to return to IMSA full-time alongside WEC program next year; details still TBA…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Ben Keating says he’s looking to run full seasons in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship next year.

The Texan driver opted out of a full-time IMSA ride in 2020 to focus on the completion of his debut WEC season with Porsche GTE-Am squad Team Project 1, although he did also contest three of the four Michelin Endurance Cup races with Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

It marked his first year away from the full-season IMSA field having spent the last six seasons driving for the Riley team, which is now preparing cars for the new LMP3 class.

Two months ago Keating expressed interest in contesting both WEC and IMSA full-time if their calendars for next year avoided date clashes, which has proven to be the case.

Despite still not being in a position to confirm any programs, Keating told Sportscar365 that he is developing a clearer picture of where he’s set to be on the grid in 2021.

An LMP2 or LMP3 venture in IMSA and a second consecutive GTE-Am campaign in WEC currently appears to be the most likely combination.

“Right now it’s a matter of working out the budgets,” he said.

“I have a limited amount of money that I can spend and I’m trying to make that work. The only reason I feel like I can possibly do it would be doing this series which is a six-race series and if I do LMP2 or LMP3, that’s a six-race series.

“I can do 12 races in a year, plus a few here and there. I’ll probably want to do the Intercontinental GT race at Indy again, and the Creventic 24-hour at Sebring. And I’ll still do Chump Car.

“So I’ll do some other things, but I have to be careful about how I add them in because I’m already gone [from home] a lot.

“But right now, I’ve got to figure out how to make the budgets work. I’ve talked to a lot of people, here and there, just trying to figure out how to make it all work. I’m still working on it.”

Keating explained that a full-term budget in IMSA’s LMP2 or LMP3 classes is working out to cost approximately the same as a year in the WEC’s reduced six-round season.

The 2019-20 WEC season that Keating recently completed with Team Project 1 lasted eight rounds but the championship has streamlined its 2021 calendar to manage costs.

“It’s basically the same price, but it hasn’t been easy to get the same price,” he said. “I’ve got quotes from ten teams and it’s basically the same as last year.”

Keating said he is yet to decide on which WEC category he would like to compete in next year, although a return to GTE-Am seems the most likely considering LMP2 lineups will continue to require at least one Silver-rated driver as the minimum next year.

A change to LMP2 driver lineup rules was communicated last month suggesting that either two Silvers or a single Bronze like Keating would be mandated for next season, but this was quickly withdrawn after criticism from competitors.

“I was seriously looking at LMP2 [in WEC] but at the end of the day they didn’t really make any changes,” Keating explained.

“They present it like it’s a big change, but it’s not. Frits van Eerd has been going up on every podium as the best-finishing Bronze, and next year the only difference is the whole team gets to come up, not just the Bronze.

“I don’t care about that. I want to win. If they had done the structure that they talked about, there was a chance I would do that.

“LMP2 is slightly cheaper than GTE and it was attractive. But the top teams in LMP2 are all pro teams and I don’t want to compete with them.

“If I’m going to be here spending a gazillion dollars doing it, I want to know that I can win.”

Keating, who finished sixth in the WEC GTE-Am standings and took a victory in Bahrain last year, has bookmarked January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona as his next race outing.

As was the case this year, the 2015 GT Daytona class winner plans to perform ‘double-duty’ competing in two different classes, subject to deals coming together.

Daytona would be in addition to Keating’s planned six-round IMSA prototype season because the race only delivers Endurance Cup points for the LMP2 and LMP3 categories.

“That’s my favorite race of the year and I hope to [drive two cars again],” he said. “I’m looking at several options and talking to lots of teams to figure out how to do it.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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