SRT® Viper GTS-Rs undergo final Sebring Test before ALMS season kickoff.
Relentless practice, long hours and immeasurable dedication just begin to tell the story of the SRT® Viper GTS-R race team. Anything less than podium finishes this year are considered unacceptable in the eyes of everyone on the team. With its enduring hard work and a little luck, the team is undoubtedly headed for success.
It's been four months since the last time the SRT Viper GTS-Rs have been on track battling in the GT class of American Le Mans Series (ALMS) racing. The hiatus may as well have been an eternity. SRT Motorsports team engineers, technicians, drivers and the cars have all progressed immensely since the 2012 Petit Le Mans contest. The teething process is over and the team is ready to make a run at the championship.
The full team recently attended a two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, in preparation of the 2013 ALMS season opener, March 16. The test session involved engineers and drivers carefully assessing new tire compounds and braking components. Suspension settings were also an area of interest as engineers sought the ideal settings for the forthcoming 12-hour endurance race. Sebring's complicated array of surfaces and road roughness keep engineers on their toes as they dial in the cars for optimal results.
Gary Johnson, SRT Motorsports team manager, weighed in on the team's progression after the test. "The test went really well, we made some gains, we lost a little, but overall we ended up in a positive. We underwent some suspension setup tweaks and looked at some different brake materials." With the team's first full season ahead, Gary is very optimistic about what lies ahead. "We're ready for the season, the team has really gelled. The drivers have pulled together and the team is working like clockwork."
Veteran endurance driver and team mentor Tommy Kendall led the way taking the wheel of the No. 93 first at the test. He shares some thoughts on the progression of the program since last year. "We've made some definite strides with the car since last year. Development is not a straight line, you have to meander along, but hopefully always moving forward. From the end of the last race last year to now we're substantially better." Training for a 12-hour race is very different than a shorter, sprint race. Exhaustive mental preparation for an endurance race is key to success. "You're always thinking about it when you go to bed at night, you're running laps in your head."
No stranger to SRT Viper competition, Kuno Wittmer notes how the game of endurance racing has changed over the past decade. "Ten years ago, a 12-hour race was a different endurance race. You drove the car differently; you didn't drive it to its full potential right away. Now, these 12-hour races are a sprint race. From start to finish everyone is flat out the entire time. We're fighting for tenths (of-a-second) on the track and in the pits." Kuno also comments on the physical preparation that goes into preparing for a 12-hour race. "I adapt to the heat with a lot of sauna training. Dehydration and loss of nutrition are major areas of concern for drivers. The track is so aggressive and taxing on your body, we go to physical therapy after each stint in the car." And looking forward to the season ahead, he added, "There's no doubt, we want to go for the championship. The car, drivers and team are all capable of winning."
Drivers and team members alike now look forward to the 12-hour season opener at Sebring. With just four weeks to prepare, everyone on the SRT Viper GTS-R team is working overtime. Over the next four weeks, the drivers will spend time studying the course and getting themselves into top physical condition. The crew and engineers will hone the cars and their processes to perfection.
Starting the season with the 12-hour Sebring endurance race stands as a true challenge for teams to overcome from the get-go. It defines a team's capabilities and exposes its weaknesses. With great attention going into pulling together the right team, the SRT Viper GTS-Rs are both ready and fully capable of making a run at the ALMS Championship. Look for in-depth detail and information on the car and team as the season progresses.