Ben Keating said he expects a similar level of challenge to pulling double duty in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona compared to previous editions, with the same minimum drive time establishing his runtime between the LMP2 and GT Daytona classes.
The Texan is set to drive the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and TF Sport’s No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener, equating to at least nine hours behind the wheel over the course of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
Keating, who is attempting the feat for a fifth time, also ran with PR1/Mathiasen last year but was in a Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in 2020.
“This year seems similar to last year,” said Keating. “It’s the same minimum drive time of 4.5 hours in each car.
“I’m hoping it goes about the same as last year. There are always lots of different variables that can be thrown into that.
“Who knows what the weather looks like or how each one of our cars are running.
“If everything goes according to my plan, I expect to be done with all of my 9.5 hours or so within the first 18 hours of the race.
“The fastest I could do it would be 16 hours. I don’t want to put that on me. I just want to be done with my drive time in both cars and leave six hours for my teammates to finish the race.”
The Bronze-rated driver said he’s been training hard, with the target of achieving all of his dive time in the first three-quarters of the race.
Keating is set to share the LMP2 class pole-sitting PR1/Mathiasen Oreca 07 Gibson with Mikkel Jensen, Nico Lapierre and Scott Huffaker, with Richard Westbrook, Max Root and Charlie Eastwood completing the lineup in the TF Aston.
“I’m not expecting to get any sleep until Sunday morning,” Keating said. “I’ve been doing a lot of really long endurance workouts, running my heart rate really high just to make sure I have the endurance to do that much driving in the first 18 hours.”
The Rolex 24 will mark Keating’s debut with TF Sport, which he will drive for in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year following an off-season move from Team Project 1.
“This is my first experience with Tom Ferrier and TF Sport as being on their team,” Keating said. “I raced against them all season in GTE-Am in WEC and I’m excited to be with them as I know how fierce competitors they are.
“Because this is my fun, my recreation, I place a really high priority on working with great people and having a good time as well as being competitive.
“That’s what I’ve experienced with Bill Riley for the last six years. That’s what I’m experiencing here again with Tom and TF Sport.
“I’m expecting the Aston to be similar to the Viper I ran for three years early on, and the AMG that I’ve been in for the last four years of being a GT3 car with a front engine. There are a lot of similarities.
“I’ve been able to pick it up very quickly.”
Daytona Aston Run to Prepare for WEC Season
Keating feels his maiden laps in the GT3-spec Aston will help prepare him for the WEC season ahead in the similarly-prepared Aston Martin Vantage GTE he will share with Felipe Fraga and Dylan Pereira.
“In some cases the GT3-spec and GTE-spec are very, very different,” he said. “But in the Aston, I think it’s like the Ferrari, it’s extremely close. It’s just swapping out some parts and is basically the same chassis, same car.
“The main thing for me, the buttons on the steering wheel are the same. The buttons on the console. The type of crisis situations I’m going to run into with an unexpected thing in the race are the same in both cars, which is a relief for me.
“I do expect this experience will definitely help me in the GTE Aston as I get comfortable with it.”