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Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen Finish Second For ViperExchange.com in Lime Rock Park Northeast Grand Prix
LAKEVILLE, Connecticut (July 26, 2015) - Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen drove the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R to a season-best second-place finish Saturday in the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
The result was the first podium of the season for Keating and Bleekemolen in the No. 33 and capped a competitive weekend that also saw Keating qualify a season-best second and lead Saturday's race.
"Everybody did a great job," Keating said. "Jeroen was really quick out there. This is one of those tracks where it's a bunch of right hand turns, and setup makes a huge difference. I really feel like we owe a lot to Bill Riley and our team engineer Tyler Hook. They really made the setup work. They learned a lot from when the GTLM cars raced here."
The competition in the ultra-close GT Daytona (GTD) class out-paced the Viper in certain parts of the 1.5-mile, seven-turn Lime Rock track, the shortest circuit on the IMSA TUDOR Championship schedule.
"The other cars that we were racing against were quicker in places, but our guys had good notes and some competitive history here to call on," Keating said. "We really did a lot of what I think is crazy stuff to do well on the right hand turns, and even asked if we could run both rear tires on the left-side of the car and the front tires on the right side. IMSA said no but it was thinking like that that kept us in the hunt all weekend."
Keating didn't let a pair of unnecessary bump-and-run contact incidents from Prototype Challenge (PC) cars in his race-opening stint stop him from racing to the lead. He and the team worked the No. 33 to the front and pitted under caution for Bleekemolen to take over.
"We gave it our all, we had a really good car, really good setup, so we maximized everything," Bleekemolen said. "I think we had also the perfect strategy for where we are. We basically did everything right and still came home second, so it was a bit disappointing, but we can't blame ourselves. We did everything we could."
The No. 33 took the checkered flag behind the race-winning BMW that paired unbelievable fuel economy with a class-leading pace that produced the fastest GTD race lap.
"I really don't know how the BMW was able to stay out so much longer than us, stretch their fuel, and still be the fastest car," Keating said. "They just beat us on fuel strategy, but we really thought they were going to have to come in again."
The ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports team earned a good result for the No. 33 team to kick-off the final five-race stretch of the season.
"The guys did a great job, we had great stops today," said Riley Motorsports Team Director, Bill Riley "Tyler Hook decided to show up with more of an oval setup, we stuck to it and worked on it a bit and it turned out to be the way to go. It's a shame we didn't win today, because we had a really strong car, but the 97 car got us on fuel mileage. We'll just figure that out for the next time."
Next up for ViperExchange.com is the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, August 7 - 9.
VCA Raffle Results!
The Viper Club of America would like to congratulate Mr. Wendell Loban from Coldsprings, Texas as the winner of the 2014 Hellcat Raffle. The winning ticket number was 1296. Even though the raffle did not sell out and was a 50/50 raffle, Wendell still took advantage of the Hellcat allocation the VCA procured and is ordering his Hellcat Challenger through one of Ben Keating's (Viper Exchange) dealerships.
We would also like to thank everyone who participated in this raffle. We are working on putting together our next raffle, which is planned to be a 2016 Viper ACR. You can renew your membership now or wait until the next raffle is announced if you'd like a chance to win the next ACR. Raffle ticket prices will start at only $100 for Venom members and there will be discounts for multiple ticket purchases.
Stay tuned for the next Viper Magazine article featuring some photos of Wendell and his Hellcat. Our next issue of Viper Magazine is being laid out now and will be featuring stories on LeMans, VCA member tours of Prefix and Arrow, Herb Helbig's Tech Notes, some interesting Gen V info and articles on local events.
Hope everyone has a wonderful summer and a safe driving season.
VCA Board of Directors
Another Last-To-First Victory for ViperExchange.com and TI Automotive at The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 28, 2015) - The No. 93 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R scored its second "Last-To-First" major endurance race victory of the 2015 season Sunday in a wet and wild Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.
Marc Goossens, Al Carter and Cameron Lawrence co-drove the No. 93 to the win, overcoming a last-place grid position and all-day rain showers for another dramatic victory in an iconic North American sports car endurance race.
In January, Carter and Lawrence joined Ben Keating, Kuno Wittmer and Dominik Farnbacher in a come-from-last victory in the same No. 93 Viper in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. In that race, the No. 93 started at the back of the field after the team elected to change tires after an incident in qualifying.
Today, the No. 93 rolled off from last after Saturday's qualifying was cancelled due to the persistent rain showers that settled in on the Watkins Glen area the last two days. The starting grid was determined by season-long championship points, but the No. 93 is contesting only the four-race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup this year and has minimal TUDOR Championship full-season points.
The Glen was Round 3 of this year's NAEC "championship within a championship" that showcases North America's four premier long-distance races: The Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, Sahlen's Six Hours and Petit Le Mans, which closes out the 2015 racing season this October at Road Atlanta.
"I love the Patron Endurance championship," Carter said. "That's our goal right now, we are looking pretty good heading to Petit Le Mans in a few months, and we will look for another mistake-free race. We scored points for leading at the three-hour mark and at the end today, but it's not that easy. We had a lot going on at two hours and 45 minutes to put us in that position, but this team knows exactly what they are doing."
Read more here!
Dodge Viper Powers Into 2016 With New ACR Model, Expanded Custom Options and Industry-Exclusive Colors
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
- New 2016 Dodge Viper ACR (American Club Racer) model returns; fastest street legal Viper track car ever
- New matte-finish exterior color options double the Viper's custom "1 of 1" exterior paint options to 16,000 colors and more than 50 million unique build configurations for the ultimate in model year exclusivity
- Now more than 48,000 unique stripe combinations across the lineup, for a truly one-of-a-kind, hand-built American supercar
- New high-impact, show-car quality exterior color - Stryker Purple - now available on 2016 GTC model, and introduction of Stryker Orange on ACR model
- ACR now available through the GTC program creating the ultimate "1 of 1" street legal track car
The Dodge brand will continue electrifying the performance car world in 2016 with its flagship, hand-built American supercar.
Not only is the new Dodge Viper ACR (American Club Racer) back in the lineup as the ultimate track car, Dodge is also expanding the Viper's exclusive production elements like never before.
With the introduction of matte-finish exterior paint, the 2016 Viper is now offered in more than 50 million unique build configurations, made up from the more than 16,000 unique paint color options and more than 48,000 unique stripe combinations. Now more than ever, Viper customers have the ability to choose a truly one-of-a-kind, hand-built American supercar.
Fastest street-legal Viper track car ever
The Viper ACR returns in 2016, prepared to honor its long-standing legacy as the ultimate street-legal track car through significant aerodynamic and suspension upgrades.
Originally introduced in 1999 and last available for the 2010 model year, the Dodge Viper ACR has a long-standing legacy as the ultimate street-legal track car for club racing. The new 2016 model honors that performance legacy with significant aerodynamic and suspension upgrades, new Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes with six-piston front calipers and Kuhmo high-performance tires specifically designed for the ACR. Standard equipment highlights include:
Read more here!
Riley Motorsports return to two car Viper GT3-R Team for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen
Watkins Glen, N.Y. - The ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports team returns to a two-car operation for this weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, June 26 - 28, where both GT Daytona (GTD) Dodge Viper GT3-Rs will carry a red, white and blue paint scheme nearly identical to the livery the team ran at the 24 Hours of Le Mans just two weeks ago.
Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, who co-drove at Le Mans with Marc Miller, return to their usual No. 33 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive Dodge Viper GT3-R this weekend at The Glen. They will be joined by the sister No. 93 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive Dodge Viper GT3-R that will be co-driven by Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup GTD point leaders, Al Carter and Cameron Lawrence, and their teammate, Marc Goossens.
The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen is Round 3 of the four-race Tequila Patron NAEC, as well as the fifth of 10 races in the overall IMSA TUDOR Championship GTD season. The race can be seen live, this Sunday, June 28, on FOX Sports 1, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. EDT, and continuing on FOX Sports 2 from 2 - 4:30 p.m. EDT.
The No. 33 first raced with the patriotic paint scheme in the last two IMSA TUDOR Championship races at Laguna Seca and Detroit, but the team's similarly adorned No. 53 Viper GTS-R campaigned at Le Mans took the red, white and blue to a global level. The team, car and colors proved popular to race fans at Le Mans and to the fervent "Viper Nation" followers around the world. The decision to continue the theme on both GTD Vipers this weekend at Watkins Glen was a no brainer.
"Le Mans 2015 was truly a great experience for the entire team, and many of them experienced it for the first time," said Al Deane, TI Automotive Chief Technology Officer. "There was great support in France for the team and the Viper, but we also saw a tremendous amount of support on social media from the fans back here in North America. Our red, white and blue colors are a great way for us to share the Le Mans livery with the Viper fans back here at home this weekend at The Glen."
TI Automotive is in the first year of a technical partnership with both ViperExchange.com and Riley Technologies, which built and continues to develop the Viper GT3-R with its affiliated Riley Motorsports entity.
The new partnership came home a winner its first time out when the No. 93 team scored the GTD victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with Keating, Carter and Lawrence co-driving with Kuno Wittmer and Dominik Farnbacher. Keating, Carter, Lawrence and Goossens then teamed up for a fourth-place finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring to give the No. 93 squad the Tequila Patron NAEC lead coming to The Glen.
The real victory in the partnership, however, is in the performance advances the team has realized using TI Automotive systems and technical components on the Viper race cars.
"Our partnership with TI Automotive has brought so much to the table in engineering and technical development on the areas where they are experts," Keating said. "Anything dealing with fluid on a car - fuel systems, brake systems, cooling systems, HVAC systems - they are the experts. It has been awesome to work side by side with TI Automotive as we have made each system more efficient and more effective. The improvements may be small, but in this business, every little bit counts, they all add up, and, on top of it all, everything works better."
Keating and Bleekemolen co-drove to a pair of GTD victories last year and come to The Glen looking for a return to those winning ways. The No. 33 team and drivers have been competitive in each of the year's first four races but have been struck by bad luck each time out. A competitive run at Le Mans also ended just over an hour from the finish with a broken transmission.
"I'm really looking forward to The Glen," Bleekemolen said. "To begin with, it's a great track. You really need to have courage to be fast there. After Le Mans, it's great to get back together with the team. Although we didn't finish during the 24 hours we proved we were front runners all race long. Let's hope the bad luck this year is out of the way and we can get this one. It would be great to get a nice result this weekend, that's what everyone deserves."
The No. 93 Viper, and Carter and Lawrence, lead the respective Tequila Patron NAEC GT team and driver standings by three points, 27 - 24, over the nearest challenger.
"It's time for round three of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup at Watkins Glen," Carter said. "After winning at Daytona and a strong run at Sebring, Cameron Lawrence and I are currently leading in the championship points. Patron points are scored at the halfway point of this race, as well as, the finish. That means our No. 93 Viper will be doing nothing but hustling from the drop of the green flag. I can't wait."
Lawrence was among the supporters back home cheering for his teammates at Le Mans.
"Running the cars in the red, white, and blue livery is certainly an exciting thing," Lawrence said. "Having great national pride, and seeing the car and team represent so well at Le Mans, makes it really cool for me to represent the Viper Nation and the USA at such a great venue like Watkins Glen. I've been out of the Viper for what feels like forever now, so to get to hop back in the car at such a great track is something I have been looking forward to since Sebring."
Goossens began the year in the No. 33 at Daytona before switching to the No. 93 at Sebring, and for this weekend.
"It's great to be back at The Glen, one of the old school tracks with lots of history," Goossens said. "In recent years we had a pretty good car here in GTLM so I can't see any reason for Riley Motorsports to not be competitive with the Viper GT3-R. We need a good solid result for Al and Cameron to stay in the hunt for NAEC honors."
A three-day event, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen schedule begins tomorrow, Friday, June 26, with morning and afternoon practice sessions. Final practice on Saturday, June 27, in the morning set the stage for GTD qualifying that afternoon from 3:40 - 3:55 p.m. EDT. Race-day Sunday, June 28, begins with a 20 minutes warm-up session at 8 a.m. EDT before the scheduled start of the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen at 10:10 a.m. EDT.
Keating is excited about coming back to The Glen and his chances in the NAEC. He and Bleekemolen, and the No. 33 Viper, are tied for third in the driver and team standings with 19 points. "I love The Glen," Keating said. "I won the Championship in the Dodge Viper Cup series in 2012 at The Glen. I also won a PCA weekend at The Glen in 2012. Great track and great memories. This time it is the third event in the North American Endurance Cup. Jeroen and I are currently sitting in third place in NAEC points, and I really want to make up some ground on the leaders."
Goossens is the most experienced of the team's drivers at Watkins Glen. "I've had multiple experiences at Watkins Glen in different categories, going from Daytona Prototypes to GTLM and NASCAR's Cup Series," Goossens said. "One thing is for sure, the track is not very forgiving, so keeping all wheels on track for six hours is crucial! That combined with a fast comfortable car will help us take the trophy home. I have all the confidence in my teammates and the crew!"
Lawrence scored a Trans Am series victory at The Glen in 2013. "Watkins Glen has been an up and down track for me luck wise, but I have always run well there and have always had a positive experience," Lawrence said. "I've gone from leading my first ever race at The Glen to out after a mechanical failure, and then back the year after and winning. Obviously, the pressure is on for us to perform well, so I'm hoping to help the team out any way I can."
Two-car effort for the Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen in New York
It takes a lot to get a veteran TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competitor like Ben Keating excited. But even 10 days after his first start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he has trouble putting the experience into words.
"There's really no way to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it. I talked to a lot of people who had been before, and I got a lot of good advice, but it's so different from anything we have in the U.S. I mean, you almost can't get there from here. It was just unbelievable. I'm totally happy I did it. Even though the finish wasn't what we hoped for, you realize you are really part of something special."
Keating, who owns car dealerships in Texas - most notably the Viper Exchange, the world's largest Dodge Viper store - races a Viper in the TUDOR Championship GT Daytona class, with regular co-driver Jerone Bleekemolen. For Le Mans, they added Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competitor Marc Miller. Only Bleekemolen had prior Le Mans driving experience, and Keating first attended the race as a spectator just last year.
For Le Mans, they fielded a Viper GTS-R, which is quite a bit different from the Viper SRT that Keating races in the TUDOR Championship. The No. 53 Viper Exchange/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports car was a handful in testing - "We went to bed Wednesday night with some genuine concerns," Keating said. But wholesale changes, including raising the car and stiffening the suspension, which was not supposed to work, did indeed work quite well, and the car was on pace.
"By the time the race came, and the track had some rubber on it, our car got happier and happier as the race went on," Keating said. How happy? Bleekemolen set the fastest lap of the race in their class.
But first a belt broke, and then eventually terminal transmission problems struck. "The car would not go into first and second gear, and soon they pitted to replace the internal parts of the transmission.
"We had good speed," Bleekemolen said. "We led the race and posted the fastest lap. The gearbox just wouldn't shift anymore. There was some stuff in the gearbox, metal from the previous one, and it just wouldn't work any longer."
Keating said they couldn't keep up with the No. 98 Aston Martin driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy, which had a comfortable class lead until Dalla Lana crashed late in the race. "That car was just in a different time zone," Keating said. "But right up until there were five hours left, I thought we had a real shot at a second- or third-place finish."
Ready for Watkins Glen
So Keating is more than ready for this weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen, one of the four endurance races this season that will decide the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, which is parallel to the TUDOR Championship' full-season championships. He and Bleekemolen race the ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Viper GT3-R in the GTD class. They've won two races so far this season, and Keating was also a co-driver in this year's class-winning Viper at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"I'm more ready for this race than I have been in a long time," Keating said. "I have a really strong hunger for a podium, and I've been doing a little extra data and video homework. I'm really looking forward to this particular race because I'm ready for some results."
Keating is entering two Vipers: Keating and Bleekemolen will drive the No, 33 car, while Al Carter, Cameron Lawrence and Marc Goossens will drive the No. 93 Viper.
Other TUDOR Championship regulars who went to Le Mans and are racing at Watkins Glen include the GTE-Pro class Le Mans winners, Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, who will drive the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Their Le Mans-winning co-driver, Jordan Taylor, returns to his regular ride in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP in the Prototype class.
Fellow Corvette Racing teammates and current GTLM points leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia also will be racing this weekend, however not in their regular Corvette C7.R. Instead, the No. 3 will be a borrowed Corvette from the European Larbre Competition team, as the No. 3 machine was damaged in an incident in qualifying prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and requires more time for repairs.
Five Le Mans winners
In fact, this Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen field will include a total of five winners from Le Mans, including a pair of overall winners. Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, who made up two-thirds of the LM P1-winning lineup along with Formula 1 racer Nico Hulkenberg in the No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid, both return to TUDOR Championship action in the GTLM class.
Tandy will co-drive the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR with Patrick Pilet, while Bamber is slated to share the team's No. 912 RSR with Joerg Bergmeister. Both Pilet and Bergmeister also competed at Le Mans this year.
Giancarlo Fisichella, who is the co-pilot of the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia with Le Mans LM P1 driver Pierre Kaffer, finished third in GTE-Pro at Le Mans. Wolf Henzler, co-driving the No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR with Bryan Sellers, also competed in the GTE-Pro class but was not able to finish the race.
Scuderia Corsa drivers Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell will contend at Watkins Glen in the No. 63 Robert Graham/Royal Purple Ferrari 458 Italia in the (GTD) class - they finished third in the GTE-Am class at the Le Mans. It was the first Le Mans for both drivers.
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship's Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen on Sunday will be televised live beginning on FOX Sports 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, with FOX Sports 2 covering the conclusion from 2 to 4:30 p.m. It's the series' sixth round of the season.
Dodge Viper GTS-R leads in competitive 24 Hours of Le Mans debut only to end up just short of finish
Le Mans, France - A lap-record pace and race-leading performance put the No. 53 ViperExchange.com/ Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R, and drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller, in contention for the GTE-Am class win at this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans only to have mechanical issues ultimately sideline the team late in the race's 23rd hour.
Although the team came up just short on finishing the race, ViperExchange.com will leave France proud of more than one accomplishment. In addition to leading and setting the fastest race lap in class - a blistering 3:55.896 time by Bleekemolen - the team was competitive from the drop of the green flag.
"It was very exciting to lead a few laps early on and really show how competitive we were," Keating said. "We came to Le Mans with the goal of wanting to do well, not only to show what we can do as a team, but also to represent Viper and everyone in what we call the Viper Nation. Hopefully our performance today made them all proud. I know I am very proud of our Viper Exchange and Riley Motorsports team and what we accomplished. We just wanted a little more there at the end."
Starting driver Bleekemolen rolled off from the second row of the grid after qualifying fourth in the No. 53 on Thursday. He maintained a steady pace through his race-opening triple stint, eventually stepping up to the lead for the majority of the race's third hour.
"It was a great week, first of all," Bleekemolen said. "Le Mans is always special, we experienced it all again, some of us for the first time, and we had a lot of fun. We showed something as well, we showed we could have had a good result, which I think is also important. We all showed competitive lap times and know that if things had gone our way we could have had a podium."
Bleekemolen handed off to Keating who stepped up for his own triple-stint in what was his first-ever driving shift in the actual Le Mans race. He ran as high as second and no lower than fourth, the position he was in when he came to the pits to give the Viper to Miller.
"I was very happy with how competitive I was able to run in the Viper," Keating said. "I did three stints in a row, everything was going very, well but on my in lap I went a little wide and into a gravel trap. I was able to drive through it but some debris must have cut the alternator belt and we lost a couple of laps making the repairs."
Miller, who was also making his Le Mans race debut, drove one lap around Circuit de la Sarthe after getting strapped in but was immediately called back to the pits. He stayed in the Viper as the Riley team quickly made the belt repairs in just over six minutes, losing only two laps to the leader.
As the race drifted into the overnight hours, the Viper and its drivers seemed to be hitting their stride. Although it is nearly impossible to get laps back on a track as large as Circuit de la Sarthe, the team was in fifth place and zeroing in on the top three.
"I really came into my own during my night stint," Miller said. "I actually enjoy night driving, and it showed this year as I got comfortable in the car. I felt that I was in a good consistent rhythm and it turned out it was quite quick as well."
As night turned into day this morning, however, the Viper team's fortunes turned as well. Not long after he turned the fast race lap, Bleekemolen detected the gearbox issue beginning to start. The team quickly replaced the internal gearbox cluster.
"We had good speed," Bleekemolen said. "We were leading the race and posted the fastest lap, so I will go home with good feelings but, unfortunately, not a trophy. The gearbox just wouldn't shift anymore. There was some stuff in the gearbox, metal from the previous one, and it just wouldn't work any longer."
The No. 53 Viper was officially retired from the race at 1:45 p.m.
"We had a tough race," said Riley Motorsports Team Director, Bill Riley "We came here to run up front and we ran up front for a little bit but then it just didn't work out. We had a problem with an alternator drive belt, and that put us a little bit back, and then near the end we just had a gearbox failure. So, it's just kind of a shame because there was a lot of hard effort that went into it. Everybody pulled quite hard, and all in the right direction, so it's a shame it didn't all work out. Although I am pretty upset about the result, I am extremely happy about everybody that was involved in the effort."
Many on the team, including Keating and Miller, enjoyed their first participation at Le Mans.
"Competing at Le Mans should be any race driver's priority," Miller said. "This event encompasses the essential root of motorsports, not just sports car racing, but everything an "event" should be. Win or lose, our team put everything we have into this race, and that effort alone is remarkable to be part of."
All three drivers were racing a Viper GTS-R for the first time, but Keating and Bleekemolen have solid winning experience in other top-tier Viper race cars. The teammates currently race a ViperExchange.com/ Riley Motorsports Viper GT3-R in the U.S. based IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, scoring a pair of victories in that series' GT Daytona (GTD) class in 2014. Keating was also a co-driver in this year's season-opening GTD-winning Viper at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Viper drivers finally get some dry laps on Circuit de la Sarthe
Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller meet night laps requirement in opening 24 Hours of Le Mans qualifying.
Le Mans, France (June 10, 2015) - Rainy weather during the day gave way to dark but dry conditions in opening qualifying Wednesday night for this weekend's 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that will see Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller co-drive the No. 53 ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R in the GTE-Am division.
Just like the Le Mans Pre-Test two Sundays ago, Wednesday saw persistent but inconsistent wet weather throughout the day. Heavy rain gave way to light mist and drying conditions only to see the heavens repeatedly open up again, a sequence that played out not only all day but all over the span of the more than eight-mile circuit. It wasn't uncommon for one part of the track to be clear and dry at the same time another section was being soaked by a rain shower.
Bleekemolen, a 2008 Le Mans winner in the LMP2 class, drove the entirety of the daytime four-hour practice, and both the opening and closing shifts in qualifying.
"It's difficult because there's always a bit of rain, then it dries out, and then you get rain again," Bleekemolen said. "It was particularly difficult for us because we still have some work to do on setup. Marc and Ben also need to get more dry laps in. It would have been better if we'd had nice consistent weather to get through our program but so far we are happy with the car."
After Bleekemolen drove first in qualifying, Keating took over and turned his first ever dry laps at Le Mans in the dark.
"It is nice to get some laps in the dry, albeit in the dark," Keating said. "I wouldn't say the sun was going down, I'll say it was dark! I took 18 seconds off of my wet lap times while dealing with a lot of traffic in qualifying. Every driver has to do five laps out there in the night session, so that was our main goal, all of us got our five in and Jeroen got one flying lap in as well."
Team Director Bill Riley is well familiar with Le Mans weather. He is returning to Le Mans after a one-year absence but has decades of experience at Circuit de la Sarthe.
"That was typical Le Mans weather today," Riley said. "It was wet and dry, back and forth, and it was kind of in between where we knew it was going to be too wet for dry tires and we knew we would wear the rain tires out. Dry handling is what we really needed to work on. The track is usually a loose track and seemed to be looser than normal today. So, we're kind of throwing quite a bit at it, working through it, and I think we're getting pretty close."
The only Viper in the field, the ViperExchange.com entry carries on a winning tradition at Le Mans that dates back to the 1990s and early years of this century. The tens of thousands of fans in attendance so far at Le Mans seem to remember.
"The fans, they love the Viper, it's a big American V10, it's a great car," Riley said. "I think the French fans love it, and having it the same colors as the United States flag and the French flag doesn't hurt either."
All three drivers will be racing a Viper GTS-R for the first time, but Keating and Bleekemolen have solid winning experience in other top-tier Viper race cars. The teammates currently race a ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Viper GT3-R in the U.S. IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, scoring a pair of victories in that series' GT Daytona (GTD) class in 2014. Keating was also a co-driver in this year's season-opening GTD-winning Viper at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Miller ran his first race in a Viper GT3-R last month at Laguna Seca in California, qualifying second and leading the first 14 race laps. He and fellow first-year Le Mans driver, Keating, met their mandatory night laps requirement in qualifying today but look forward to even more track time tomorrow.
Thursday's 24 Hours of Le Mans schedue features another late afternoon practice session followed by final qualifying that once again will run until Midnight local time.
Prefix Performance Releases Targa Viper
(Rochester Hills, MI) - Performance car enthusiasts and specifically... Dodge Viper owners speak passionately about what they are looking for in Viper branded vehicles, and Prefix has once again heard them loud and clear.
This week, Prefix released news that will they be proceeding with a targa conversion of the 5th Generation Dodge Viper. The conversion can be completed on any new or used Gen 5 Viper, directly through Prefix or any dealership, and provides owners with a body-colored, removable, carbon fiber roof panel that conveniently stores in the vehicle's trunk compartment for an open air experience. Current pricing for the targa conversion is $9,995.
As a tier 1 auto industry supplier, Rochester Hills, Michigan based Prefix Corporation has six Midwestern facilities including their 129,000 square foot state-of-the-art paint facility is where all 5th Generation Vipers are painted. Prefix is recognized throughout the auto and transportation industries as a premier source for prototypes and one-off models, as well as concept cars and even specialty vehicle creations for the film industry.
"We sincerely enjoy the friendships we have within the Viper community and appreciate hearing input directly from car owners and Viper Association members from around the globe." explained Prefix President, Eric Zeile. "After we released the Medusa convertible version of the Viper last summer, we received many inquiries as to whether we would create a targa; it was a natural evolution."
In addition to the targa and Medusa Vipers, the Prefix Performance team is also finalizing a series of performance upgrades for the Viper line up. Their 2014 acquisition of Arrow Racing Engines makes them uniquely qualified to design and create some seriously head-turning performance vehicles. A selection of modified Vipers will be on display at the Prefix Arrow Racing Grand Prix at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex on July 31st.
"We had already built an advanced painting facility for the Viper." Continued Zeile, "Our entire organization has a vested interest in keeping people excited about this amazing example of American muscle. We have the ability to engineer and develop these types of modifications correctly, so we will continue to listen to what owners are looking for."
Congratulations Viper and SRT!
SRT® Motorsports won the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTLM driver and team championships in the season-ending Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta on Saturday, October 4. Kuno Wittmer captured the IMSA TUDOR Championship GTLM driver championship with a third-place finish at Petit with co-drivers Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 91 Dodge Viper GTS-R. The team's sister No. 93 Dodge Viper GTS-R in turn captured team honors after being driven this year by Wittmer, as well as Jonathan Bomarito, Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell,... [read more]
Registration for VOI 13-COTA
Registration is now open, and space is limited, so if you want to have the best time on Earth, with the best car on Earth, at the best track on Earth, sign up soon! This event is open to ALL Viper owners; a few notes: You will get more track time than any other VOI, at a real-life F1 Track, 3.4 miles long, 20 turns, with elevation changes On-track instruction, so if you've never been on a track before, you will get the confidence, and knowledge, you need to have a blast (and be safe) We have full-reign over COTA (for 2 days) and the drag strip... [read more]
Congratulations to the GTS-R #93 car for their 2nd place finish at Sebring on March 15th
Drivers Rob Bell, Jonathan Bomarito, and Kuno Wittmer all led the race at various points , including Bomarito in the final hour of the race. The final caution of the race sent the 93 car to the pits, while the Porsche 912 pitted under green before the yellow flag flew, giving that team good enough track position for the win. The 91 car led the race twice, and finished in 7th place. Early in the second half, Hunter-Reay spun the 91 car in Turn 17 and ended up in the tire barrier. Ben Keating was driving the Viper Exchange GT3R #33 car just 35 minutes in to the race when ,... [read more]
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