Ben Keating has not ruled out additional races with his Ford GT beyond next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, having revealed previous considerations of mounting a full-season effort in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Texan, who is set to become the first privateer to race the Multimatic-built GTE car in the French endurance classic, could add post-Le Mans races to his calendar, admitting he has “many options” on the table.
It comes in the wake of the American manufacturer shifting its role to support programs as it plans to sunset its factory operations this year.
“I have had conversations with Ford about it,” Keating told Sportscar365.
“I was looking at the possibility of doing WEC because I think it would be fun. But the choice was made easy for me because I thought Fuji and Petit [Le Mans] were on the same weekend and I didn’t want to choose between the two.”
That has since changed with the Fuji WEC round moved to the week prior the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans.
Keating said his initial investigations into the WEC stemmed from what he believed was an unfavorable Balance of Performance for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 he drives in the WeatherTech Championship with Riley Motorsports.
His fifth place class finish at Sebring alongside co-drivers Jeroen Bleekmeolen and Felipe Fraga, who will complete the team’s lineup for Le Mans, however, changed Keating’s short-term outlook.
“I looked into it because I expected to be in the bottom half of the field in points in IMSA,” he said. “I’m not going to waste all that money and time not competing for a championship.
“If we ended up in last place, or something like that, at Sebring, then I would have looked at it a lot harder. Finishing fifth at Sebring felt like a win.
“If I have an opportunity to win a championship [in IMSA], then I’m going to jump on that opportunity. If that goes away, then who knows what might happen.”
Keating acknowledged the impending deadline for full-season WEC entry requests for the 2019-20 season and said that he’s not in a position to commit as of today.
However, he said he wouldn’t rule it out completely.
“I know the entry deadline is May 21 and if you bring a new car in [to the class], you’ve got to be at the July test,” Keating said.
“I kind of came to the conclusion that if it got closer to the start of the season in September and I went to them and said, ‘Hey I’d like to run a full-season, Will you still let me in?’
“I feel pretty good about my chances of getting in.”
Keating has also not ruled out running the car in the WeatherTech Championship, potentially in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GTLM class alongside his expected return to GTD.
An increase in the minimum drive time for Pro-Am classes in the race prevented him from pulling double-duty between LMP2 and GTD this year, but hinted that a run in GTLM, which sees only a base drive time of two hours, could be possible.
“In more years than not I’ve been in two cars at Daytona,” Keating said.
“I love doing that. I feel like it’s become the Ben Keating rule in that they keep increasing the minimum drive time to eliminate the chance you can do that in a Pro-Am class.
“But there are lots of different options on the table [for racing the Ford GT].
“I’m going to have ten sets of wheels, I’m going to have spare bodywork, I’m going to have everything I need to go do it. It’s just a matter of deciding to put a team together and buy the fuel and tires.”
Le Mans GTE-Am Effort Coming Together
Keating said he’s been happy with how the Le Mans effort has come together in recent weeks, which largely features crew from Riley but with support from both Chip Ganaasi Racing and Ford.
“It was in flux for a long time because Ford wasn’t sure they were going to get all their cars in,” he said. “Obviously if they weren’t going to get their cars in, we’d be crazy not to take guys that have been working on the car for years.
“We couldn’t make any final decisions until that came out. But it’s come together great and working together great.
“Everything feels really good right now. I’ve done [Le Mans] with this group of people a couple of times now. We’ve got the experience and know what we’re doing so that makes it much calmer.
“To be able to piggyback and know you have the support of Ford, the CGR guys, it just makes you feel like you’ve got everything under control.”