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ViperExchange.com And Jeroen Bleekemolen Qualify Third In Viper GT3-R At Sebring
Posted by: newsla on Mar 16, 2014 - 04:07 AM
Sports Cars
ViperExchange.com And Jeroen Bleekemolen Qualify Third In Viper GT3-R At Sebring

Battling for a pole position in just the second race for the ViperExchange.com team and the all-new Viper GT3-R, Jeroen Bleekemolen locked down a third-place starting spot in an ultra-competitive GT Daytona (GTD) field in qualifying Friday for tomorrow’s 62nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.


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Ben Keating co-drives the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Viper GT3-R at Sebring with Bleekemolen and his older brother Sebastiaan Bleekemolen. The same trio was joined by Emmanuel Collard in the debut of the Viper GT3-R in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona where the No. 33 qualified and raced competitively.

“We are excited to be starting P3,” Keating said. “I think we have 25 cars in the GTD class, a very competitive field, and the top seven cars are within 3/10ths of a second of each other.”

Bleekemolen’s top lap time of 2:04.311 (108.309 mph) put the No. 33 just .043 of a second off the pole on the 3.74-mile Sebring road course.

“We’ve made good progress with the whole team,” Jeroen Bleekemolen said. “We’re getting a little bit better. Of course the BoP (Balance of Performance) has changed and we are more competitive now, and that’s great. It’s very close between all the cars now so it’s going to be a long and tough race.”

All three drivers have on pace in the Viper GT3-R that has also been consistently among the top performers in the practice sessions leading into qualifying.

“We were top-five every session going out, so we’ve made really good progress,” Sebastiaan Bleekemolen said. “I think the track is good for our car, but the race will be tough. The traffic is extremely difficult here at Sebring. It’s hard to see the prototypes approaching, so I think that’s the key to staying out of trouble. I think the cars will be fast in the race as well. I think we have a good chance to finish on the podium.”

The strong showing in qualifying was an indication of the new but experienced team’s progress and a willingness to take some chances in a class as big and competitive as GTD.

“We really threw a lot into qualifying,” Keating said. “We pulled a few tricks out of the bag but what’s more important than a good qualifying run is to have a good car for the race. It is good to be starting just behind the leader, right behind the pole, but we are more concerned about how the car races. Jeroen had an unbelievable qualifying run, he is quick here, but what we are focused on right now is to have a race car that is easy to drive for 12 hours straight.”

The unknown is the notorious toll the harsh Sebring circuit takes on the competition, both man and machine.

“As with all cars, it’s hard at Sebring,” Jeroen Bleekemolen said. “It’s not an easy track. It’s hard on any car, so any car can break down on this track. It’s probably one of the hardest races in the world, even though it’s not a 24 hour, but 12 hours here is comparable to 24 hours at some other tracks so it’s going to be a hard day.”

The Sebring 12-hour classic is both the second round of the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. The race begins at 10:15 a.m. EDT and live FOX Sports 1 coverage runs from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. EDT, with the balance of the event streaming live on www.IMSA.com. FOX Sports 1 also will air a three-hour highlight telecast beginning at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. Prior to the start of the race, www.IMSA.com will feature two pre-race shows.

The first, "Through the Driver's Eyes, Driven by Continental Tire," a 45-minute program narrated by former Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti, provides a unique, behind-the-scenes look at many top IMSA drivers and teams.

Following "Through the Driver's Eyes, Driven by Continental Tire," www.IMSA.com will feature a live pre-race show from the Sebring grid hosted by popular commentator Justin Bell. The show will include driver interviews and pre-race activities as teams make their final preparations for the grueling 12-hour battle.

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