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Viper goes out with Petit Le Mans victory

by Bill Cawthon on

Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Mark Miller captured the checkered flag driving the the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta’s 2.54-mile track.


It was a bittersweet win for the team, as the final run for the Viper in IMSA/WeatherTech Sportscar Championship competition.

“It is emotional,” Keating said after the race. “The goal was to give it a good sendoff. Viper has such a rich racing history, and to do our last race in the Viper with IMSA at Petit Le Mans and go out on top is a huge deal.”

On Friday, Bleekemolen won the pole position. Bleekemolen actually came in second, but a rules infraction sent the formerly winning Audi to the back of the pack.

With additional wins at Belle Isle and Road America, the Viper team finished the season in second place in the points. The 2016 championship went to Ferrari’s Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, whose 488 GT# finished third in Saturday’s race. Disappointing results at Sebring and Circuit of the Americas earlier in the season left the Viper team with a 32-point deficit coming into the Petit Le Mans; they cut the gap to 27 points.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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