Ford is part of the Keating family. Ben Keating: "It is my fifth time at Le Mans and it is for sure very special for me to compete this year with the Ford GT. I am a Ford dealer and retailer in the United States. My grandfather was a Ford dealer, he had five children and four of them became Ford dealers. So I grew up selling Fords and for me it has always been a dream to race the Ford GT here at Le Mans and 2019 is the first year Ford could make it possible, so we jumped at the opportunity."
After a first participation with a Viper GTS-R in 2015, Keating switched to prototypes in 2016 and 2017, with an ORECA 03R and a Riley (LMP2), respectively, before returning to GT. He reached the third step on the LMGTE Am podium in 2018 at the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GTE. This year, he's writing a new page in his family history with Ford. "Usually I feel that GT cars are not that different, but the Ferrari and the Ford are. Surprisingly it is very different. The Ford GT has a lower centre of gravity. The Ford GT seems to be better in cornering and the Ferrari seems to have a bit of an edge in acceleration. Both cars are easy to drive which is very important in a 24-hour race."
Another point in common share by Keating, Ferrari and Ford: Texas, the home state of the driver/owner/dealer. Last year, his Ferrari 488 benefitted from the support of Risi Competizione, based in Houston, thanks to a third place finish in LMGTE Am shared with Jeroen Bleekemolen et Luca Stolz. "I really enjoyed doing the race last year with Giuseppe (Risi, team owner, Ed.) and all the guys in the Risi Competizione team. They are really a great team, but we also had a good race." And of course, when one thinks of the Ford GT, and sees the special livery of the factory cars in the LMGTE Pro class, it is impossible not to think of another Texan: Carroll Shelby, who in 1966 and 1967, clinched Ford's first two wins under the banner Shelby American. "A Texas connection indeed," concludes Keating with a smile.
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PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE, SCRUTINEERING, MONDAY 10 JUNE 2019. In addition to teaming up with Brazilian rookie Felipe Fraga, Ben Keating is continuing his collaboration with Dutch driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, with whom he'll be taking the start in his fifth 24 Hours of Le Mans.