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24H Le Mans

Keating Ford Takes GTE-Am Victory

Keating Motorsports wins in customer Ford GT debut at Le Mans…

Photo: Drew Gibson/Ford

Jeroen Bleekemolen survived a late-race penalty for his car and a challenge from Joerg Bergmeister to take GTE-Am class honors for Keating Motorsports and Ford in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It marked the first class win for the Ford GT in its customer racing debut.

Bergmeister and Team Project 1 co-drivers Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti, meanwhile, claimed the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Am driver and team titles with a second place run for its Porsche 911 RSR.

The Riley Motorsports-run Keating effort dominated the race, having moved into the class lead in the fifth hour after qualifying ninth in class.

While having built up a one-lap lead through the night, courtesy of several well-timed safety car periods, a spin by team owner/driver Ben Keating in Hour 17 and a black flag to replace the car’s damaged nose erased their considerable margin.

Keating, however, was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty for spinning the Ford GT’s wheels during the nose change, which was performed by the factory Ford Chip Ganassi Racing mechanics.

It put the Bronze-rated Texan with just a five-second lead over Project 1’s Bergmeister prior to the final round of stops, which saw Bleekemolen rejoin just 3.7 seconds ahead of the Porsche.

The Dutchman extended the margin in the closing hour, only for Bergmeister to pit with nine minutes to go for a splash of fuel.

Bleekemolen and Keating shared class honors with Brazilian Felipe Fraga.

The No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE of Jeff Segal, Rodrigo Baptista and Wei Lu completed the class podium in third, ahead of the No. 62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari trio of Toni Vilander, Cooper MacNeil and Rob Smith in fourth.

The class pole-sitting No. 88 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 RSR hit trouble early with Satoshi Hoshino spinning from the class lead in the opening hour and colliding with the No. 64 Corvette C7.R of Marcel Fassler, who was deemed by officials responsible for the incident.

RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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