Ben Keating looks forward to having twice the fun when he returns to Daytona in three weeks for the Rolex 24. The Texan will be racing in two categories, LMP2 and GT Daytona.
For this weekend’s Roar Before the 24, he qualified fastest in LMP2 running the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07-Gibson – moments after posting the 11th-fastest time in GTD, driving the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.
He’s still working on transitioning between the two classes.
“I found out on Friday that it was hard to go from the LMP2 over to the GT car,” Keating said. “Today I qualified both cars, but I made the decision only to be in the GT car prior to qualifying. I found it’s a lot easier to then transition to the P2 car – more grip and more power.
“Looking back,” he added, “I would have made it easier on myself if I qualified last – I would have a shorter walk between pit boxes during the race.”
IMSA rules mandate that a Bronze-rated driver qualify and start the Rolex 24 in the LMP2 class (it’s Silver or Bronze in GTD) – putting Keating in the ORECA for the start of the event.
“My plan is to do two hours at a time,” Keating said. “As long as I am out of the car for two hours, I won’t get in trouble with the ‘four out of six hour’ rule. I would like to open the race with a triple stint, which would be two hours. Then I plan on starting a two-hour stopwatch when I get out; and then see when it makes sense for me to get back in.
“After the opening two hours in the P2 car, I plan to do all my driving time in the AMG. To do four and a half hours — and a double stint takes two hours in that car — I would do a double and triple. After my two-hour break, I would then finish up my time in the LMP2 car.”
Keating feels he can finish up his minimum drive time (four and a half hours in each car for nine hours total) in 18 hours.
“It’s doable, and honestly I’m surprised that more people aren’t doing it,” Keating said. “Both the Riley guys and the PR1 guys are ‘good guys.’ It’s a pretty laid-back scenario. Typically in this race, if you can keep the car clean and stay close to the lead lap for the first 18 hours, everything else is fine. I plan to have my nine hours – which will probably be closer to nine and a half or 10 – in the first 18 hours. Then the teams can work on getting up close to the front over the last six hours.”
The weekend marks the fifth time Keating will be running two different cars in the event, and the second time running in two different classes. He drove an ORECA for Starworks in Prototype Challenge in 2017, but missed the minimum drive team as the PC car failed to finish.
“That was probably the worst driving experience I ever had,” Keating said of the PC car. “The car wrecked during the first stint. It was pretty miserable weather. Two of my co-drivers were in the care center for hypothermia. Then they wanted me to run one more stint. I said, ‘Park it’…”
Making up for that bad experience was Keating’s third consecutive GTD podium: In 2015, he won GTD in a Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper, and finished third with that team in both 2016 (Viper) and 2017 (driving a Mercedes).