Ben Keating said he’s undecided on his 2021 plans, admitting he could undertake full seasons of the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship given the right circumstances.
The Texan, who currently sits third in the GTE-Am drivers’ championship in his first full season of the WEC, is waiting for both the WEC and IMSA to confirm its calendars and class structures.
Keating was due to compete in all four IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races this year with Riley Motorsports but looks set to miss the season-ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring due to the moving of the WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain to the same weekend.
“I’ve heard rumors of what’s going on in IMSA and WEC and I think there’s lots of really interesting things going on,” he told Sportscar365. “I’m excited to see what it will look like.
“I’m talking to a lot of different teams, a lot of different people with a lot of different cars.
“I want to get down to details and budgets and driver lineups but nobody’s announced yet.
“You can’t put together a budget until you know where you’re going and how long the races are.”
Keating believes an opportunity could open up in IMSA, should it adopt LMP3 machinery as expected.
“I’m curious to know what happens in GTLM and I’m curious to know exactly what it looks like in LMP3,” he said.
“I think it’s quite possible there could be changes in both of those classes that could take out the top teams in GTD and take out some of the other teams in GTD.
“Depending on what those changes look like, in GTLM and LMP3, all three of them become interesting.
“If you had four or five cars going into GTLM and four or five cars going into LMP3, you’d end up with [less] cars in GTD. I think it could create the environment for a really interesting GTD class.
“Am I interested in LMP3? Absolutely. But if there are changes made to GTLM and LMP3, then I think GTD also becomes more interesting.
“It all depends on what the driver lineups look like. If they factory-backed teams stay in GTD, then it’s less interesting for me.”
Keating has even suggested the idea of contesting both the WEC and WeatherTech Championship full-time, if there are no clashes in 2021.
“It would have to be a really special budget but quite possibly I could contemplate doing both,” he said. “If WEC goes down to six rounds and LMP3 is six rounds, why not?”
International Travel “Not a Factor”
Keating said the current restrictions and challenges on international travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic will not shape his 2021 plans but admits it has been a “weird” thing to navigate.
“I’m not going to say it’s more challenging but I’ve learned how to navigate that petty well,” he said.
“The first time I did it, it was a very difficult thing to pull off but because of my persistence, I got to the right person at the airline who can help make it all happen.
“Now that I have that relationship, I send her everything I need and it’s smooth as can be.
“So far it has been OK for me. I do miss having the fans there and it’s weird to go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans without my wife. I’m not taking any guests and that’s weird.
“I’m able to get in as an athlete coming to compete. She’s not allowed in as a spectator.”
WEC GTE-Am Class Structure Keating’s “Favorite”
Keating has praised the WEC for its class structure in GTE-Am, which requires at least one Bronze-rated driver and no more than one Gold or Platinum driver per lineup, which along with the newly introduced success handicap system, has helped balance the playing field.
“The fact that GTE-Am is running last year’s pro car makes it really nice,” he said. “The series knows what the cars are capable of. There’s less game-playing and less BS when it comes to BoP adjustments.
“As long as you have that piece, if you have the knowledge of a full year of what these cars are capable of, if you can balance them all looking at the different tracks you go to, then I think the rewards weight system they have is awesome.
“It gives every car in the class a chance. It’s a very effective system. When we have a lot of weight, it’s really hard for us to do well. When our competitors have a lot of weight, it’s really easy for us to do well.
“It’s only possible with having a balanced BoP for the season.
“In the old World Challenge days of having that big rewards weight, I hated it. In the IMSA days of BoP changing every race, I hate that too.
“From my perspective, the GTE-Am class in WEC, in terms of performance balancing, is my favorite I’ve ever seen. I love the Bronze-Silver-Pro requirements.
“The rewards weight is very effective. It’s only two races old. We had one step down from the max weight not that long ago and now because we had two bad races in a row, we almost have no weight.
“I expect Le Mans and Bahrain will be very good [for us], which is great.”