Viper Claims Pole to Pole Victory at Petit Le Mans

Drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller gave the Dodge Viper a victory in its last IMSA race on Saturday in the No. 33 Viper Exchange / Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R.

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The swan song victory at the legendary Road Atlanta circuit was earned from the pole and put a storybook ending on what has been a successful and winning career for Dodge Vipers in IMSA competition. In addition to winning eight IMSA GT Daytona (GTD) races the last three seasons in Dodge Viper GT3-Rs, Keating is the principal of the Viper Exchange, the world’s largest Viper retailer.

“I’m extremely excited,” Keating said. “I learned to race in a Viper. It’s an emotional thing to be racing a Viper for the last time in IMSA, put it on the pole and win Petit Le Mans. It’s the final race of the year and really special.”

Bleekemolen, who started from the pole after setting a new track record in Friday qualifying, and Keating combined to lead the first two hours of the 10-hour Petit Le Mans race. Miller, the third driver in the rotation, kept the No. 33 in the lead pack throughout his driving stint, as did Keating in his second turn at the wheel. That paved the way for Bleekemolen to drive the final four hours of the race, during which he frequently led the competitive GT Daytona (GTD) class.

“This was one of the coolest things in my life and maybe the hardest race I have ever done” Bleekemolen said. “Four hours, no air conditioning and I had no drink for the last two hours. I was just totally dehydrated. It was a battle the entire time for every tenth of a second, like qualifying laps every lap for two-and-a-half hours. It was so intense, to win with Viper in its last IMSA race, it was awesome.”

“To have an opportunity to be part of this team, be here at Petit Le Mans and stand on the podium and share it with these guys is truly an honor,” Miller said. “There are a lot of drivers that could be in my shoes right now and they are not, and I am extremely thankful for that. My entire focus was making sure I did everything I could to give them a clean car and give Jeroen an opportunity to do what he did out there. That guy just shocks the hell out of me.”

Looking to the Future

While the Dodge Viper will no longer be seen in IMSA competition, the successful GT3-R race car is not going away from the worldwide racing scene. Several Dodge Viper GT3-Rs will continue to compete overseas, and a renewed effort in Pirelli World Challenge is in the plans for 2017.

“The short-term future with the race cars, and we are racing over in Europe right now, is to be in Pirelli World Challenge next year with multiple teams,” said Erich Heuschele, SRT Motorsports Engineering Manager. “Hopefully we will have at least three entries, and we are working on setting that up right now. Unfortunately, we are going to walk away from IMSA for 2017, but we still have GT3-Rs in the field, we still have customers that want to race this car, and they are buying race cars to run in World Challenge.

“The Viper is going to be made through the 2017 model year. So, we’ll have a full 2017 production run which has already started. Viper ACRs and GT Customs in particular are still quite popular. If you want one of the last thrilling, analog cars that rewards driving skill, get an order in to Ben or your local dealer before 2017 runs out. This is the end of an era.”

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