Ben Keating – Ironman

Ben Keating at speed in the beautiful Wynns P2 car. [photo by Jack Webster]

Ben Keating at speed in the beautiful Wynns P2 car. [photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Motul Petit Le Mans is coming up shortly and all the different classes in IMSA will be crowning their champions. Currently lying second in points in the LMP2 class heading into the season finale is Ben Keating who is piloting the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07 Gibson in his quest for the championship. The title would go nicely with his LMP2 Championship and Michelin Endurance Cup from the 2021 season.

Also, Ben Keating is the first American driver (in any class) to have won multiple World Championships. Driving in the FIA-WEC series in 2022, Keating secured the LMGTE Am Driver’s title piloting an Aston Martin for TF Sport. This year, having gotten the attention of Corvette Racing after last year’s championship run, Ben was signed by the GM squad to pilot their C8.R in this year’s FIA-WEC championship. He certainly didn’t disappoint. He proceeded to win the WEC race at Sebring, won the 6 Hours of Portimao and clinched the LMGTE Am Championship at the 6 Hours of Monza.

Now he is on the cusp of potentially another IMSA LMP2 title and at Indianapolis we had the chance to sit down with Ben to discuss his career and where he is headed next. The very popular and fan favorite Texas car dealer has been going nonstop in the world of motorsports since he was first introduced to the sport a number of years ago with a gift of a track day by his wife.

“I just think it is crazy for a 52-year-old car dealer from Texas to be the only American to have won multiple World Championships in sports car racing.”

We don’t think it is crazy at all, as without doubt, Ben Keating is the finest pro-am driver we have ever seen race. And we have seen a lot of them.

Ben is known for maximizing his track time while at the race track. Many times, he has driven two different cars in different classes in the same endurance race, like the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Even with a championship on the line, he is branching out into something completely different at Motul Petit Le Mans. He will be driving a Mazda MX-5 in their race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. “I am extremely excited to be racing in the MX-5 Cup with Saito Motorsports Group and, to be honest, quite nervous. It looks like a total blast to drive and the competition looks like a ton of fun”, Ben told IMSA.

Driving constantly both overseas in the FIA-WEC series and in IMSA certainly requires a lot of stamina and fitness and we asked Ben about how he handles it all. What is his routine, how does he stay fit?

“Riding a bicycle. I do a lot, a lot, of cycling. The hardest part of being in a sports car for a long period is the elevated heart rate. People don’t realize how high your heart rate gets. I’m somewhere around 150 beats per minute on average – for a long period when I’m in the car.”

“You know, at Daytona for example, if I’m gonna drive in two different cars, I need to be comfortable with 150 beats per minute for three hours at a time. And you still have to make good decisions, good judgement calls, be able to have your wits about you, and the only thing I’ve ever found where I can do that is on a bicycle.”

Coupled with his strict training discipline, Ben prepares his own custom nutrition for his use during a race. He doesn’t use a cool suit, cool hat or even a drink bottle in the car.

“I don’t use a drink bottle in the car because it’s distracting. Every time I come in for a pit stop, I have this funky looking plastic collapsible bottle. It’s got my mixture of calories and electrolytes and water all in there. And I know it works well for me because of cycling. Every time I come in for a pit stop, they hand it to me.”

Ben likes to race what he sells. Among his 28 dealerships he represents many brands. At his garage at home he has the Ford GT he raced at Le Mans and joining it soon will be his WEC Championship winning Corvette C8.R. His championship Aston Martin from last year, he does not have an interest in.

“I am really big about racing what I sell. I love the World Endurance Championship but I don’t sell Porsches or Aston Martins or Ferraris. I always wanted to drive a Corvette. So, the fact that I won the World Championship last year (for Aston Martin), I won Le Mans, won a bunch of Poles, I was able to get my toe in the door (with Corvette).”

The rest, as they say, is history.

And next year for Ben Keating? Well, he is leaving the FIA-WEC behind (except for Le Mans, anyway), and has signed on with United Autosports who will be fielding a two-car team in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the P2 class. Expect to see Ben’s familiar Wynns sponsorship on his United Autosports ride next season.

“I’m spending about a third of my year at a racetrack. I need to race less. I’m done with the WEC (except for Le Mans, he says). I’m going to be full time in IMSA (next season).”

If racing less means another full season of getting to see Ben racing all the IMSA events, plus perhaps at Le Mans, we’ll take it. It wouldn’t seem like a proper race weekend if Ben Keating wasn’t racing in at least one car – or two.

We will see you, and Ben Keating, at the races.

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