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Snakes alive: The Viper's back and ready to rumble

The all new 2013 Viper made its debut at the recent New York International Auto Show after a two year hiatus from the performance car world. Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) Brand and Motorsports, proudly presented the Viper, its upscale sibling the Viper GTS and, as an added bonus, the Viper GTS-R, SRT’s racing entry into the highly competitive GT class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Viper Models and Features

The SRT team has successfully created an evolutionary design that melds the visceral aggressiveness of previous Vipers with state-of-the-art engineering, electronic technology and creature comforts to move the Viper upscale and broaden its potential customer base. Two models will be available, the Viper and the Viper GTS. Both will be branded as SRT, not Dodge, but will be sold through the existing Dodge dealership network starting in the fourth quarter of 2012. The pricing will be announced later this summer.

2013 Viper GTS-R
2013 Viper GTS-R
Chrysler Group
The 2013 SRT Viper GTS
Chrysler Group

An all aluminum 8.4 liter V-10 with 640 bhp and 600 lb-ft. of torque will be common to both models, as will the four-wheel independent suspension, the Pirelli P Zero Z-rated tires, four-piston Brembo brakes and a launch control system. The drivetrain includes a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission. Neither a paddle shifter nor an automatic transmission is available.

Thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber for the hood, roof and decklid, and aluminum for the door panels and an under-hood X brace, weight has been reduced by 100 lbs. and the torsional stiffness improved by 50%. Both models will have multistage stability and traction control with the Viper having a two-mode system (full-on or full-off) and the Viper GTS having a four mode system (full-on, sport, track and full-off).

Other features exclusive to the GTS are the standard driver selectable two-mode active suspension, full leather interior surfaces with accent colors and power controlled adjustable seats. Interiors of both models feature a seven-inch full color customizable instrument cluster, a Uconnect Media Center with an 8.4 inch touchscreen and a steering wheel with wheel-mounted controls for the audio, Uconnect, cruise control and launch control. All in all it’s an impressive array of features that were unheard of in previous Vipers.

The Viper and GTS colors include black, Adrenaline Red, Race Yellow, Bright White, Shadow Blue Pearl, Gunmetal Pear and Stryker Red Tinted Pearl. Dual racing stripes in Black, Billet Silver and Gunmetal are optional on both models.

ALMS GT Class Racing
The new Viper GTS-R will have a tough act to follow when it enters ALMS GT class racing. Its older siblings dominated their class in the ALMS like few others have. The Viper won GTS team championships in 1999 and 2000, winning 12 straight races and 16 of 20 during that time. In addition to the high level set by its predecessors, the GTS-R will compete in the most competitive class in American racing today against the likes of Corvette, BMW, Ferrari and Porsche, moving the bar even higher.

Are the Viper’s competitors shaking in their racing shoes thinking about the coming of the GTS-R? Well, no, they aren’t. All are veteran teams that have raced against each other at the highest level of competition for several years and the thought of one more entrant doesn’t make them want to run for the hills.

When asked about the Viper’s impending entry into the GT class, Team RLL (BMW), Flying Lizard Motorsports (Porsche) and Extreme Speed Motorsports (Ferrari) all indicated the Vipers were welcome and that their presence would only make the class even more competitive.

Racing legend and team owner Bobby Rahal said, “BMW Team RLL welcomes all new teams to the GT Class in ALMS. Close competition in the GT Class these last few years has made the series very exciting for the fans. Having Viper on the grid can only add to the excitement.”

Thomas Blam, the chief strategist for Flying Lizard Motorsports, also expressed his welcome. "Flying Lizard is pleased to welcome the Viper program to the ALMS GT class. This marks another significant addition to what is already the most competitive GT racing in the world with marques like Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, BMW, Lotus and now Viper. Viper has had tremendous success in the past in sports car racing and it’s good to see them make the move to GT, as Corvette did a few years ago. 2012 is shaping up to be a very intense season."

These comments were echoed by Scott Sharp, second generation driver and team principal of Extreme Speed Motorsports who said, “It is exciting to hear that the extremely competitive American Le Mans GT class is now going to have another major manufacturer in it. The competition is only going to get deeper. It sounds like they have a strong program with some great drivers. Many feel the GT class is the best racing presently in the world and with two additional cars, it is only going to get better.”

Viper GTS-R Racing Debut
The official racing debut of the GTS-R has not been announced and the SRT team is being rather tight-lipped. When we asked Dan Reid, Chrysler Group Communications for SRT, Motorsports and Product Design, about the date of the first race, he responded, “All we can say at this point is late summer.”

If Dan’s comment can be taken literally, there are two ALMS races in August, which certainly qualifies as late summer. The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge will be on the fourth of August at the 2.25 mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio and the Road Race Showcase will be on August 18th at the historic four mile track at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Assuming all goes well with the race car development and testing, it is our guess that the Viper GTS-R will get its racing initiation at one of these two events.

The race cars will be developed and campaigned by a race team that is a partnership between SRT Motorsports and Riley Technologies. Drivers include Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Kuno Wittmer, a good mix of experience and youthful exuberance. ALMS rules require two drivers for each car and most of the teams include a third driver for each car in the longer endurance races. Viper will announce their two additional drivers at a later date.

The sounds of ALMS GT class racing now include the shriek of the Ferraris, the basso profundo growl of the Corvettes and the piercing howl of the Porsches and BMWs, and are about to be joined by the ground-pounding rumble of the Vipers – music to the ears of any race fan. Let the symphony begin.

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©May 2012 by Bruce Troxell

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