After a tough outing at Le Mans in 2017 with a Riley Mk.30 Gibson, Keating Motorsports is back in 2018, partnered with Risi Competizione in GTE Am, and team owner and driver Ben Keating comes into the week aiming to score a big result.
Keating, who is partnered with IMSA teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz for the race, told RACER that he’s both excited and motivated to return to the GTE Am division after two years in LMP2.
“I feel great. What we have with Risi here is a great and natural partnership. It’s great to be in GTE Am too, and a reason for me to want to race in Am as opposed to LMP2, is that I want to do well.
“Last year, whether it was the Riley/Multimatic chassis, or the tires, or me as a Bronze trying to compete with some of the Super Silvers, it meant we weren’t competitive. For such a big event, I want to come here if I can do well. GTE Am is the place to be, and I was grateful to have been awarded the [Bob Akin Award] automatic entry. Everything feels right this year.”
For Bleekemolen and Stolz, it’s going to be a learning week, though there’s real reason for optimism. Both are still getting up to speed with the 488 GTE, a car which prior to the Test Day, neither of them had driven. However, at the Test Day the team had a clean run and finished up sixth in class, just 1.6 seconds off the best time, setting them up nicely for race week.
“I drove the 458 in the WEC round at Fuji for AF Corse, and that’s the only other time I’ve driven a Ferrari in GTE,” Bleekemolen said. “I really like it, from the minute I left pit lane I was smiling and happy to be in the car.”
In the case of Stolz, who is a regular in GT3, this week is his first race in a GTE car, as well as his first Le Mans start.
“I have to say this race is just huge; I came for the Test Day, and it felt like a Formula 1 paddock, which I’m not used to,” he explained. “And even in our team, you feel it from the moment you arrive that everything is so organized. The first laps for me around Le Mans, and the first laps in a GTE car were special.
“I’ve driven almost every GT3 car, and I can tell you GTE is different, you need practice. But the 488 with Michelins on the track is amazing, and I think I’m already where I want to be.
“Ben is a really strong Bronze driver, if not the strongest, which gives us a good chance in Am. We have the minimum driving time to do, and that can decide the race, it’s all about who loses the least time with their Am in the car. And because Ben is so good we are optimistic. We have a real chance here.”