The SRT Viper GTS-R will make its official re-entry into the fiercely competitive GT class of endurance racing when the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) travels to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next month. The GTS-R, developed by SRT Motorsports in partnership with Riley Technologies, will face competitors such as the Corvette C6R, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Ferrari F458 Italia and the BMW M3 some 12 years following the last factory supported Viper racing effort.
American Le Mans Series
“We’re thrilled to return to the world-class competition in the American Le Mans Series with our flagship American supercar,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – SRT Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC. “The new SRT Viper GTS-R represents a rebirth for us on the race track. It epitomizes the best of what our new SRT performance brand represents and showcases the Viper’s natural affinity for road courses. Now the time has finally come to go head-to-head with the best sports car teams from around the world.”
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge will be a two hour and 45 minute race around the challenging 2.5 mile course located near Lexington, Ohio. SRT Motorsports will enter two cars at Mid-Ohio and has announced that if all goes well there, the cars will be entered in the subsequent ALMS races at Road America and Virginia International Raceway, each four hours in duration, and the season-ending 10-hour Petite Le Mans race at Road Atlanta.
“The decision to make our debut at Mid-Ohio is a result of the progress made with our testing program,” said Gary Johnson, Road Racing Manager – SRT Motorsports. “The car has shown steady performance. Each test has met and more often exceeded our expectations, so we’ll see how things go at Mid-Ohio and then make a decision about the rest of the 2012 season.”
Big shoes to fill
The new SRT Viper GTS-R has some big shoes to fill to measure up to the racing successes of the previous Viper GTS-R. The GTS-R missed the first two ALMS races of 1999 and then reeled off six straight victories to finish out the season. Viper began the following ALMS season with six more consecutive victories before seeing their 12 race winning streak ended by Corvette Racing. They then proceeded to win the next four races to take the GT-1 and driver’s championships.
“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the significance of the SRT Viper returning to the top level of professional sports car racing,” Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS said. “The Chrysler Group has a long, storied and very successful history of competing with the American Le Mans Series. The fact that they’re coming back concurrently with the introduction of the new production car and doing it simultaneously, we would be hard-pressed to come up with a better-case scenario. What a great way for the SRT Viper to come back to racing.”
In addition to success in the ALMS, Viper finished one-two in the GTS class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive times between 1998 and 2000.
Tommy Kendall added to driver lineup
Former Trans-Am series champion Tommy Kendall was recently selected to join Marc Goossens, Dominik Farnbacher and Kuno Wittmer as the regular series drivers. Ryan Hunter-Reay and a driver yet to be named will complete the three-driver lineup in each car for the longer endurance races. Kendall won four Trans-Am series championships in the 1990s and brings a wealth of experience to the Viper squad.
“Tommy Kendall is an excellent addition to our team,” said Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations – SRT Brand and Motorsports. “It’s fitting that Tommy makes his return to competition as the SRT Viper GTS-R returns to ALMS. His experience as a road racer makes him a strong addition to our team.”
There is no doubt that the ALMS GT class is the closest, most exciting racing to be found anywhere. In the four races thus far, Porsche, BMW and Corvette have been winners, with only Corvette being able to win more than once. The top teams are experienced, disciplined and highly competitive. The SRT Viper’s addition to this mix can only make it more exciting and even more competitive. Fasten your seat belts and hang on Viper fans – it’s time to go racing.
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©July 2012 by Bruce Troxell