Ben Keating: It’s been better than I could have imagined
A pretty good season in the #33 TF Sport Aston…
It’s been a feast of podiums in the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season for the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR for the driver line-up of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen. Bronze driver from the US of A, Ben Keating answers the questions ahead of the final round in Bahrain.
How do you assess your season so far?
The season for #33 Aston Martin has been better than I could have imagined. Our results have been incredible. Some of it has been extremely lucky with red flag situations in the first two races of the year. Some of it has been consistent performance, like winning Le Mans without the fastest car and winning Fuji with a strong performance by all three drivers. And then, we had to throw in one spectacular crash at Monza just to make it interesting! I am thrilled to be in the position we are in. I couldn’t ask for a better team than TF Sport and the Aston Martin has been a total dream to drive by running flawlessly all year.
What have been the highlights?
Clearly, winning Le Mans was the major highlight. The Porsches were about two seconds per lap quicker than the Astons, but what made the win so special was the WAY we won. It was one of those special moments where we literally had a perfect race, and we were rewarded for it. This is so hard to accomplish in a 24-hour race. It was so rewarding. Second highlight for me was qualifying at Sebring in the first race of the year. The pro Ferraris were playing political games looking for BoP help and I had an outrageously good quali lap in my home country of USA. For me to start ahead of the two Pro Ferraris was fun, and it was the only time I got the chance to attend the “Top 4 Starting drivers” meeting.
What has been more challenging?
Doing well in WEC is all about consistency. Because there are only six races, it is hard to have a bad finish and still do well. Yes, we had a big DNF at Monza and that created a big challenge for us to finish the year without any other issues. But we were lucky that the #98 Aston also had a bad race at Monza. The biggest challenge for me personally is to have consistent performance without screwing it up. The is a personal challenge… you want to do well and you want to push hard, but you realize that one little mistake can ruin it for the team and for the season. All I can do is to control myself. As silly as it sounds, this is my biggest challenge.
Have there been any surprises in 2022?
There have been less surprises in 2022 than in previous years, because this is the first time in my WEC history that I have run with the same team and in the same car for a second year in a row. This consistency has been a large part of our performance this year. But I would also say that I am surprised to have lost so many of the top Bronze competitors, like Perfetti, Perrodo, and Yoluc. I had competed against these guys for the previous few seasons, and they have walked away with the championship. These are the guys I have been measuring myself against and I missed having them out there. Maybe they will be back for another year of GTE???
What’s the gameplan heading to Bahrain?
Win the Championship!!! Period. First, we need to finish the race. We need to be very careful and make sure we protect the car from whatever craziness is out there among all the classes and all the drivers. Second, we need to finish relatively close to the #98 Aston Martin. As long as we finish close to them, we will win the Championship. This is the goal. If we can accomplish these things while also doing well in the race, then that becomes a bonus. It is an 8-hour race with elevated points towards the championship. This race finish is super important.
Which has been your most rewarding race?
Le Mans, no question. Not only the most rewarding race this season, but also the most rewarding race of my career. The race was special.
How well do you work with the team and your team-mates?
I have an amazing team and teammates. This is the #1 reason I stayed with Aston Martin for 2022. TF Sport has been just incredible. It is a group of great people, and this goes a long way towards the enjoyment of the time away from home and business. This is my recreation, and being with TF Sport makes it enjoyable. They take their racing extremely seriously, but they also value me as a customer. Being with Marco and Henrique has also been great this year. I have performed well this year, and a big piece of this has been my co-drivers working with me to find a little extra lap time. We truly are a good team. Every time I get on track and perform well, it is a result of both TF Sport and my co-drivers working with me to perform my best.
What does the future hold for you in WEC?
Racing a Corvette. The fact is that I sell cars. I represent 19 different brands. The major event for me in 2023 is that I will be racing something I sell. This is a big deal for me. I truly believe that I can win on Sunday and sell on Monday. This is just not something that Aston, or Ferrari, or Porsche can do for me. Corvette has an amazing history in Sportscar Racing, and I am excited to be part of it. I am excited to be an American Driver racing an American brand with an American team in the 100thAnniversary of Le Mans. I am excited to have the American National Anthem played anytime we win a WEC event.