Viper Exchange overcomes performance gap to finish fourth in The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen

Top Team strategy and great driving by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen keep No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R in the hunt.

Viper Exchange overcomes performance gap to finish fourth in The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#85 JDC/Miller Motorsports ORECA FLM09: Mikhail Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson
#0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing DWC13: Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves, Sean Rayhall
#16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Spencer Pumpelly, Corey Lewis
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
#66 Ford Performance Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Joey Hand, Dirk Müller
#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan, Jeff Segal
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Watkins Glen, New York (July 3, 2016) – ViperExchange.com relied on top team strategy and pit work by Riley Motorsports and great driving by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen to finish fourth Sunday in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen despite recent rules changes that made the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/ Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R significantly slower than the majority of the IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) competition.

After Keating and Bleekemolen took the victory one race ago last month in Detroit, the Dodge Viper GT3-R was hit with an IMSA Balance of Performance (BoP) rule change requiring 1 millimeter smaller air restrictors. At the same time, several other manufacturers were granted 2 millimeter larger restrictors allowing for better engine air flow.

I had to fight so hard. Everybody was basically faster than us because of the Balance of Performance.

Jeroen Bleekemolen

The end result was that the Dodge Viper GT3-R lapped a second-and-a-half slower than most of the GTD competition this weekend in practice, qualifying and today’s six-hour race on the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen road course.

“For us to finish fourth place in a really slow car is just amazing,” Keating said. “The team had unbelievable stops, both Jeroen and I did our jobs and drove well, and the strategy is what really played out well for us.

“We figured out how to use strategy to get ourselves into second place and then tried to drive as wide as possible to stay there. It is just tough to keep a car that is a second-and-a-half faster than you behind you, but we did it as long as we could.”

Bleekemolen drove just under the final four hours of the race and moved into second early in the last hour after a well-timed final and perfectly executed pit stop by the Riley Motorsports team.

“It was really tough,” Bleekemolen said. “I had to fight so hard. Everybody was basically faster than us because of the Balance of Performance. We definitely had no chance but I still went after the positions.”

Bleekemolen fell to fourth in the closing stages of the race when two PC class competitors hit each other just in front of him. The GTD third-place Audi crashed into the back of the Viper and then slipped by for second as both continued.

Bleekemolen then slowed up for the yellow flag thrown for the PC incident only to see a Porsche slip by for second in a questionable pass for position under caution.

“It is a shame I lost second with a couple of cars crashing right ahead of me,” Bleekemolen said. “But, to be honest, I think they would have gotten by me anyway in the last couple of laps because they showed they were well over a second faster than us. You really can’t expect to keep someone as fast as that behind you.”

The GTD top-four finishers all posted their fastest race laps in the closing minutes, but Bleekemolen’s race-high top time of 1:45.545 was over a second slower than the three competitors that reached the podium.

“Jeroen was driving his heart out,” Keating said. “That’s one of the best drives I have ever seen by Jeroen. He drove as hard as he could just trying to keep guys behind him. A (one minute and) 45.5 lap is just a ridiculous fast time with the car that we had. It just blows my mind that he was able to get that time.

“The bright spot of finishing fourth is that the top three cars in the last 20 minutes really showed what they had. Every single lap was a low (one minute and) 44, and that’s just stuff we can’t even fathom.”

The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen was the first round of the only back-to-back weekend stretch of races on the 2016 schedule. Next weekend, the IMSA WeatherTech series head to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, previously known as Mosport, in Canada.

“Hopefully we got to see the true performance of all the cars today,” Keating said. “A six-hour race is a long race, you get a lot of sample sizes, and I am hopeful that there is enough evidence to make a BoP change before Mosport.”

The Canadian Tire Motorsport Park race can be seen live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) at 11 a.m. EDT next Sunday, July 10.

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