Riley Motorsports Misses Out On CTMP Repeat

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A competitive run that had Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in line to score a second-consecutive victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was cut short by a late-race contact incident while battling for the lead in Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, resulting in an 11th place finish for the No. 33 Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R.

Keating, Bleekemolen, and Riley Motorsports scored the first race win for the Dodge Viper GT3-R in IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) competition at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2014 and were in a position for another victory at the track formerly known as “Mosport” again today.

After a one-year absence, the GTD division returned to Mosport this weekend and – after a great race-opening driving shift by Keating and outstanding pit stops and strategy calls by Riley Motorsports – Bleekemolen was in second and battling for the lead and the repeat victory just 30 minutes from the finish. 

“We had a really good race for a car that was a little off the pace,” Bleekemolen said. “We were hoping to get ahead on strategy and pit stops and the guys did a really good job on that again.”

The leading No. 27 Lamborghini was barely keeping Bleekemolen and the eventual race-winning BMW behind him while also fighting with the lapped No. 9 Audi.

“At the end we were running third and then second, but the leader had to pit, so we were looking really good” Bleekemolen said. “I found a way to keep the BMW behind until we ran into traffic. He touched me, very lightly, I got loose and then I ran into the back of the No. 27 Lamborghini who was braking incredibly early as well.”

The damage from the hit on the rapidly slowing Lamborghini punctured the Viper’s radiator. Bleekemolen wheeled the stricken No. 33 back to the pits where the Riley Motorsports team incredibly swapped out radiators in little over 10 minutes. 

Bleekemolen returned to the race and drove out the final minutes for the 11th place result.

“I can’t do anything but feel good about the way it went,” Keating said. “We had a great race with the exception of that incident at the end. It was a very similar race to Watkins Glen, we didn’t have the pace, but we were able to work our way to the front on great pit stops and great strategy.

“To be running in second, to be in a position to advance to first when the pit stops cycled through, and then try to hold everybody off, it was just awesome to be in that position.”

The No. 33’s GTD team and driver championship bids took a blow in today’s race but Keating isn’t giving up on anything.

“It hurts a lot because it would have been a great points day,” Keating said. “The three cars that were ahead of us in points would have been behind us substantially. We could have made up some good ground, but we still want to do well in the championships.

“Obviously, we want podiums and we want wins, but this doesn’t change our perspective on the season at all."

Mosport closed out 2016’s only back-to-back weekend stretch of races, which began at last Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, and Keating is impressed by how well his team performed.

“I am really proud of the entire team,” Keating said. “We haven’t had the best car on speed for the last several races and we have been right there. In the closing minutes, you get down to the last pit stop, the last hour of the race, and we have been in a position to be on the podium. It’s been awesome.” 

Next up for and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, July 22 – 23. The race can be seen live on FOX, Saturday, July 23, at 3 p.m. EDT.