USGTC driver Ben Keating to race at Petit Le Mans.

Dodge Viper Cup points leader, US GT Championship regular and NARRA board member, Ben Keating will compete in the ten hour long Petit Le Mans event this week for the very first time.

Keating will drive the #68 Porsche GT3 fielded by The Racers Group, in the GT-Challenge class in the American Le Mans Series event, with Dion Von Moltke and Jim Norman.

Earlier this month Keating won Sunday’s US GT Championship race at Texas World Speedway in dominant fashion, after also winning the Dodge Viper Cup race.

He currently leads the Dodge Viper Cup championship (442 points) over Jeff Courtney (410 points) heading into the the series decider at Daytona International Raceway.

The event– the North American Road Racing Association’s 2011 Finals Weekend, October 21-23– will also feature the US GT Championship, open to all production based ‘GT’ styled cars, the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship and the US Performance Driver Education program.

As Keating was preparing for the week long Petit Le Mans event we asked him a few questions.

Q: You’ve raced with NARRA for quite sometime now, and progressed from a ‘DE’ student to racer, and then pro-level racer competing in the Dodge Viper Cup and events such as the Daytona 24 Hour. How did you come to race at Petit?

BK: Actually, the Petit race was my 40th birthday present.

Q: What does it mean for you to be competing at such a prestigious event?

BK: I think of the three most premier road races in the USA being Daytona 24, Sebring 12, and Petit Le Mans.

I am honored just to have the chance to compete at this level. ALMS brings out the best of the best, from all over the world. Not only do I get to race with these guys, but we have a car and a team that can win the class. This is extremely exciting.

Q: How do you think it will compare to Daytona?

BK: In my own mind, the Daytona 24hr race is the number one top road race in the USA. There is something special about a 24 hour race with 50 years of history. Running at Daytona was unbelievable. I have never experienced Petit, so it is unfair for me to make comparisons. At Daytona, the most important thing is staying out on the track and out of the pits. Speed takes a back seat to survival. I anticipate that the 10 hour race at Petit will be a little more aggressive racing. You must still make it to the end, but it is more difficult to make up lost laps. It becomes more important to stay near the front.

Q: What is it like fielding a car with such a renowned organization like TRG?

BK: TRG runs a great program. They are not cheap, but they are always up front. They won the GTC class last year. I am excited to be running with them. I am not interested in just going around, for the experience of Petit. If I am going to run, then I want the opportunity to win. I think this is what TRG brings to the table.

Q: What are the differences between the ALMS GT-C Porsche and your Dodge Vipers in the US GT Championship and Dodge Viper Cup?

BK: With the Porsche your corner entry and mid corner speed becomes extremely important. Because the engine is sitting over the rear axle, when you throw the car into the corner the rear grips fairly well. The biggest challenge for me is being willing to drive into the corner at the limit of the Porsche, because most of my reference of the limit is in a Viper. The differences are very slight, but they amount to about 2 seconds per lap.

Q: What’s your biggest fear?

BK: Traffic. Road Atlanta is very different from Daytona. At Road Atlanta there are no breaks. You are busy all the time. Almost every corner is a high speed corner, and we are competing in the slowest class of cars. When the faster classes get into the heat of a battle they don’t wait for a good place to pass you. They just take it, now. The closing rates are crazy fast.

Q: What do you expect it to be like being passed by those super-quick Le Mans Prototypes? The closing speeds will be much higher than with Daytona Prototypes.

BK: Even the DP’s [Daytona Prototypes] were amazing fast. I can’t even imagine how it is going to be. I am used to being one of the fastest cars on the track [in the USGTC and Dodge Viper Cup]. It will be a huge challenge to handle the role of being a ‘moving chicane’, as the other classes often refer to us. Road Atlanta does not offer the easy passing zones of the Daytona banking.

Q: What is your goal?

BK: I want to keep the car clean, on the track, and in the race. We have a great team of drivers. We can win our class in the race. It is mostly a matter of protecting the car for my team mates.

Q: We know you’re a fixture in the US GT Championship and Dodge Viper Cup, but can we expect to see you at more ALMS events in the future?

BK: I don’t know. Maybe Sebring 12 hour. Depends on how Petit goes. Maybe we do such a great job that I have teams begging me to drive for them!

Follow Ben Keating’s progress during the ALMS week at facebook.com/NARRAonline .

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For more information on NARRA’s US GT Championship, Whelen US TimeTrial Championship or US Performance Driver Education program visit NARRAonline.com

For media inquires, images or further information contact the NARRA press office via email (tdrewer@narraonline.com) or call +1 (404) 825 2641.

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