Ben Keating (Born August 18, 1971) is an American racing driver and business owner operating out of Tomball, Texas. Keating is the owner of Viper Exchange Racing, and since starting in 2006 he has competed in a number of North American endurance racing, road racing, and Dodge Viper specific series, winning multiple championships. In addition to his racing endeavors, Keating is also the owner of 10 car dealerships across Texas and a Viper specialty dealership. In 2015, Keating paired with legendary car designer Henrik Fisker to develop a high-performance sports car, the Force 1 V10, which debuted at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show.
Viper Racing League and NARRA
Keating began racing in 2006 after receiving a weekend track driving course as a Christmas present from his wife. In 2006, he began racing a 2000 Dodge Viper GTS in the Viper Racing League (VRL), a league that began as track days for Viper enthusiasts. Keating received a DNF in his first race, an event at Sebring International Raceway. In 2007 Keating participated in the full VRL series and in 2008, his second full year in the league, Keating won the VRL National Championship. After the 2008 season, the VRL reorganized into the North American Road Racing Association (). In 2009, Keating participated in the NARRA US GT Championship, a 13-round series at 7 venues across the Continental United States. Driving a Viper Competition Coupe, Keating claimed the national championship. He would repeat this feat in 2010. In 2010 Keating also began racing in a new NARRA-sponsored event, the 5-city, 10-race Dodge Viper Cup. Driving the specially designed Viper ACR-X, Keating finished 2nd in the inaugural Viper Cup with race wins at Virginia International Raceway and Pocono Raceway. Keating finished the series with 501 points, 106 points behind first place. During the 2011 Viper Cup, Keating would record 4 race wins (New Jersey Motorsports Park, Virginia International Raceway, Texas World Speedway and Daytona). Going into the final race of the season Keating held a 58-point advantage in the Viper Cup standings (a win being worth 60), and claimed the national championship by 20 points despite being forced into 15th place by a late-race collision. In 2012 Keating would dominate the series and repeat as national champion, recording 6 wins (Road Atlanta (both races), Road America (both races), Monticello Motor Club, and Watkins Glen) as well as three other top 5 finishes.
In 2013, Keating made the jump into the American Le Mans Series, competing in the series’ final season. Keating, with co-drivers Damien Faulkner and Craig Stanton in the No. 66 Porsche would finish 5th in the GT-challenge (GTC) class in the series’ opening event, the 12 Hours of Sebring. Keating would continue to race with Faulkner for most of the series. On September 21 Keating and Faulkner would score their first victory of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. In front of his friends and family from around Texas, Keating drove the first 70 minutes of the race, then handed off to Faulkner who completed the victory with a winning margin of 12.94 seconds. Keating and Faulkner followed their first victory up with another winning effort at Virginia International Raceway. The two late-season victories would prove a boon to Keating’s final position in the standings, providing him with 40 of his 84 total points and earning him an 8th-place finish in the GTC class (out of 46 drivers).
Keating started off the 2015 season pulling double-duty at the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, taking turns in both the No. 93 and No. 33 Vipers. Keating would score his first win of the young season in the No. 93 Viper with previous Daytona co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher (2011–2013) and Kuno Wittmer (2013), along with American Al Carter. The No. 33 Viper would come in 9th in the event. Keating would drive in both cars again in the subsequent race, the 2015 12 Hours of Sebring, guiding the No. 93 car (with Carter and German Marc Goossens) to a Top Five finish. The No. 33 Viper (with Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen) would again come in 9th after a radiator issue late in the race knocked the car out of the lead. After Sebring, a string of technical and track issues befell Keating and the No. 33 car. Early in Keating’s opening shift of the 2015 Monterey Grand Prix, a storm drain grate that was jutting out of the track did massive damage to the right side of the Viper, forcing significant repairs and knocking the No. 33 out of contention. The No. 33 car was then forced to pit for significant repairs early at Belle Isle after damage to the oil tank. Keating and Bleekemolen would experience another early issue at the 2015 Six Hours of The Glen, but were able to recover and finish the race in the 6th place overall. Running a full race without any stops for repairs, Keating and Bleekemolen rebounded with a second-place finish at the 2015 Northeast Grand Prix, finishing just three and a half seconds behind the leader. Keating and Bleekemolen followed up with another strong performance and snagged their first class win of the year in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America. As a result of their win at Road America, the No. 33 car was placed under some competitive restrictions limiting the performance of the car during the next race, the Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIR. These restrictions limited the No. 33 Viper to a 7th-place finish, preventing Keating from taking a third consecutive podium. Keating and Bleekemolen would come back strong though, and charged back into the winner’s circle with a come-from-behind victory at Circuit of the Americas. Keating was hit with a penalty early, but strong driving from him and Jeroen allowed them to overcome that setback and take the victory. For the season’s final race, the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen joined Keating and brother Jeroen in the No. 33 Viper. Unfortunately, Keating’s early spin-out on the rain-soaked track resulted in a lap deficit the team could not overcome, and the No. 33 car finished 12th in class. However, Keating’s late-season push of three podiums and two wins in the last five events were enough to help overcome the No. 33 team’s early troubles, and Keating and Bleekemolen finished in 6th place in the points standings for the GTD Class.
VLF Automotive is a joint venture between designer Henrik Fisker, former GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz and manufacturer Gilbert Villarreal. Lutz and Villarreal began VL automotive in 2012, and in 2013 unveiled the VL Destino, a luxury automobile based off Fisker’s Karma electric car. However, VL did away with the Karma’s fully electric powertrain and replaced it with the 6.2L V8 GM engine used in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Eventually, Fisker joined the team, which then became VLF automotive. VLF then began work on a new automobile built around the 8.4L V10 of the Dodge Viper, which would become the Force 1 V10.
Fisker and Keating met in 2015 and quickly developed a partnership, combining Fisker’s legendary designs with Keating’s extensive expertise with performance vehicles, particularly his intimate knowledge of the Dodge Viper. In particular, Keating helped design the active suspension used in the Force 1 V10 using his decade of experience racing Vipers to tune the suspension for both on-the-road and on-the-track needs. As part of the partnership, the first run of the Force 1 V10, totaling 50 cars, will be sold entirely through Keating’s Viper Exchange dealership. For information about Ben Keating visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Keating