The SRT Motorsports program returned to American Le Mans Series competition on a balmy Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the new Riley Technologies-prepared two-car team of Viper GTS-Rs each completed a full race distance, showing the performance hallmarks that led the Vipers to ALMS titles a decade ago. The #91 Forza Motorsports machine of Dominik Farnbacher and Kuno Wittmer finished 10th in its first race, while the #93 Pennzoil Ultra Viper GTS-R of Tommy Kendall and Marc Goossens ended up two spots back.
The SRT Motorsports team was treating the race weekend as an extended test session as it prepares for full-time competition in 2013, but once the race started and the competitive juices started flowing, it was like the Viper GTS-R had never left.
“After 10 years or so of being away and not competing, here we are in our first race back and we are in the top-10,” said Wittmer. “We learned so much in this race about everything that keeps the package together. We’ll keep working at it and we’ll get better, but we are encouraged by the start.”
The car showed both reliability and durability in its maiden voyage, as things ran according to plan for the full race distance. The ultra-competitive GT class field that featured Porsches, Corvettes, BMWs, Ferraris and Aston Martins provided a stern test for the Vipers – which they passed with glowing marks.
“It’s been a very quick time period between putting this together and getting it out on track, but we had to get out here to see where we stood against such an amazing field of manufacturers,” said Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations – SRT Brand and Motorsports. “We know that our Viper and SRT owners were very excited to see us out here in Ohio and we are looking forward to even more great days ahead.”
The #93 survived a bump from a competitor that sent it spinning into the tire wall at one point, continuing on with nothing more than a pair of cracks in the bodywork on the left front. The importance of the durability showed by the Viper GTS-R was put on display in the late stages of today’s race when contact forced other competitors to retire with terminal damage.
“It looks to be a sturdy car and things are going to happen on track, so it is good to know that you have a car that can take a little contact,” said SRT Motorsports Road Racing Manager Gary Johnson. “Overall, we have some work to do, but today showed us the areas where we need to focus our efforts.”
The problems suffered by the #93 car with the contact also allowed the entire SRT Motorsports team to show its chemistry, as all of the drivers and the engineers worked together to make sure that the car was ready to go after its incident. The benefit of having a two-car team – especially in a team’s nascent stages – is vital to its progression as the teams can share data and plot strategies on how to find more speed. In the heat of battle for the first time, that camaraderie shown during testing was on display again today.
“I am very proud of the whole SRT team,” said Dominik Farnbacher. “The car was very hot today and that can take away your focus in the car, but nobody made a single mistake all day. The guys have really pulled together and did a fantastic job with the car.”Stay with driveSRT.com in the days ahead for more inside coverage and for news of the next race for the Viper GTS-Rs.