Keating & Viper aim for more VIR success

August 20, 2015

Keating & Viper aim for more VIR success

August 20, 2015

viper_8_20_15Fresh from a big win at Road America, Viper Exchange owner Ben Keating and the Riley Technologies team arrive for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event here at VIR, still basking in the glow of a second consecutive victory in the Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge Presented by Grassroots Motorsports at VIR last month.

In the meantime, a back story has emerged.

Manufacturers, sports car racers and fans know that Michelin technical partner teams competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA Word Endurance Championship and the TUDOR Championship race on MICHELIN’s latest “proprietary” tires.

But when the defending Ultimate Track Car Challenge (UTCC) Riley Technologies team inquired about the possibility of securing MICHELIN proprietary tires for their Viper Exchange GT3-R for the 2015 event, Michelin declined.

“Last year we had the MICHELIN confidential tires for the event and driving them for the first time you almost put them on a pedestal,” said Ben Keating.

“This year we knew that we were going to run on the MICHELIN customer tires and I was really impressed.”

“We didn’t feel that providing our ‘proprietary’ race tires that we use at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in WEC and the TUDOR Championships to one car was in the spirit of the event,” said Sarah Robinson, motorsports marketing manager for Michelin North America.

“We thought that it would be a more fair comparison to run on our non-confidential ‘customer’ racing tires that anyone can buy. We were reasonably confident that they would perform quite well.”

“The UTCC is a throwback, kind of a ‘run what you brung’ event and you never know who is going to show up with what,” said Keating.

“The track was definitely hotter and slower this year, but I looked at the margin of victory and we won by three seconds compared to 1.5 seconds last year,” said Keating.

“I’ve run on MICHELIN customer tires in the past when I raced in the Viper Challenge. They were pretty good, but these were even better,” said Keating, on a point confirmed by Michelin motorsports technical director Ken Payne.

When the powerful Viper factory GTLM team was dropped at the end of the 2014 season, Keating and Riley Technologies pulled together many key elements of that program to campaign an entry for Keating in the TUDOR Championship Pro-Am GTD class in which he will race here at VIR.

All entrants in the class race on a single specification tire by a rival manufacturer.

When the team received an invitation to enter the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-AM class, Keating and Riley Technologies sought a chance to re-connect with Michelin there.

The team made a strong run at Le Mans and was in a podium position until a gearbox problem appeared in the final stages of the race. Co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen set the fastest GTE-AM class race lap in the process.

The world’s largest Viper retailer, Keating is already working with Riley on plans for 2016.

“I think it would be pretty cool to win the UTCC three years in a row,” said Bill Riley. But first comes the business of putting a TUDOR Championship win at VIR on the scoresheet.

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