Ben Keating said he feels a bit of “little bit of vindication” by winning this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans after losing his first victory in 2019 due to a post-race technical infraction.
The 50-year-old Texan helped steer TF Sport to its second GTE-Am class victory in the last three years, sharing the wheel of the No. 33 Aston Martin Vantage GTE with Henrique Chaves and Aston Martin factory driver Marco Sorensen.
It came two years after Keating’s Riley Motorsports-run Ford GT won GTE-Am on the road but was excluded due to a fuel-related infraction discovered in post-race scrutineering.
“What it means to me is that I’ve now won Le Mans twice,” he told Sportscar365. “But it’s nice to have a little bit of vindication — assuming this one sticks — it’s nice to show in the record books.
“The first time, everyone who was in the race knows who won it. Now, hopefully it’s official! It’s pretty special.”
The Aston started from deep in the 20-car GTE-Am field although worked its way up the order after initially going off-sequence on pit stops due to a suspected slow puncture.
“We came from 19th and the all the Porsches were about two seconds a lap quicker than us,” he said.
“At the start of the race, I didn’t think we had any chance. I thought the top six were going to be Porsches.
“Literally, this might be the only Le Mans that I can think back to where we had zero penalties, zero mistakes, zero off-road excursions.
“Everybody did their job. No punctures, no issues.
“I really feel like the big difference between the Astons vs. the Porsches was that we didn’t have to make a brake change.
“We had a long pedal at the end of the race for sure.”
Keating also credited the timing of the race’s only safety car period in Hour 19 for being a pivotal moment in the race that put them with nearly a one-lap lead over the competition.
“We also got really lucky with the safety car,” he said.
“We went in on the second stint, Marco felt like something wasn’t right with one of his tires, so we pitted early and that put us off strategy with everybody else in the race.
“We kept going from first to fourth, from first to fourth, back and forth all night because we were off strategy and that’s the reason why we got lucky with the safety car.
“They all pitted right before the safety car came out. We got right past the safety car they got stuck behind. We almost had a lap on them.
“That was a big difference-maker, the way the race finished out.”
When asked his thoughts on taking victory at Le Mans, he said it’s “pretty special” as a Bronze-rated gentleman.
Keating and Sorensen have provisionally taken over the lead of the GTE-Am drivers’ championship with the win in the double points-paying FIA World Endurance Championship round.
“I still think it’s outrageous that a 50-year-old guy can go race in the biggest sports car race in the world and compete.” he said.
“I am so grateful for the pro-am class. There are a bunch of incredibly good drivers out there and it’s surreal almost that we get to come out here and compete at this level.
“With this same car and team, we got second last year. One more step is pretty special.”