SRT® Viper GTS-R: Birth of a World Class Race Car - Part II
Editor's Note: This is Part II of a two-part story about the development of the SRT Viper GTS-R - Part 1.
Q: Was it difficult to get approval from the sanctioning body?
"The initial morph gave me the canvas to start working on. The refinement was a series of sketches that represented a couple of different approaches to things. Those drawings were used to communicate with the sculptures what we wanted to do. It became a reference point. They also served as a document we sent to the governing body to look at and approve, so in a sense, the refinement drawings served as one of the first gates of homologation where they looked at the car and we told them a few of the ideas and dimensions of what we were doing and they said, 'okay, you're on the right track, we'll endorse the car.' It basically gave us the confidence to continue working on the car going forward and it would fall into their interpretation of the rules.
"That point was critical for the body sides. That was the biggest element we were bringing to them and for them to say it was acceptable was probably the biggest element."
Q: But there were plenty of details left to design.
"Those refinement sketches showed a few people a different way of executing some of the extra features that we were going to have to add like the fog lamp details. The refinement stage was something that I kind of took on by myself, launching off what Scott (Krugger) had done.
"A big part of the refinement was stuff like the scallop behind the front wheel. The sketches were critical in letting everyone know what it was going to look like and letting the race team from their side showing us what the aerodynamics look like. It gave everyone a chance to present their case.
"There is a box that the wing has to fit in. That box is represented by the endplates. If you create a rectangular box out of the endplates, that box will say the area that we are allowed to work within by way of the rules. The team always wants the endplates to be as big as possible, so that's why they end up representing that rectangle. From there, they are just trying to make the biggest, most effective wing.
"There is a height requirement off the decklid. From there though, the shape of the wing is totally open for us to design. The race team did that themselves. It's not something we are holding faithful to the production car, because it's not used in production."
Q: What else?
"We worked on the design of the car pretty heavily and I think it shows in the refinement of areas like the front chin spoiler where you can see the sculpture in there. There was kind of an ideal section in there that worked well for downforce and for harmony in the linework with the production vehicle. We knew we were going to use production-based tail lamps and headlamps, knowing that we were going to use those general surfaces and parts, how do we take those as a result of widening the car and the aero adaptations. We really wanted to make the sculptures look like they were done by the same people that did the exterior of the production vehicle.
"Even the exhaust, we talked a lot about that. If you notice where the exhaust lives, the ideal thing is to have the exhaust exit as fast as it can from the motor. Basically, you cannot go any further than the centerline of the wheelbase for the exit of the exhaust. You'll see that the exhaust is as far forward as it can be, but making sure that has a nice shape to it. It has a nice elliptical shape and it gives that a nice finish to it.
"The best way to put it is that everything was thought about. Everything was considered and designed with the same sensitivity as the production vehicle. We checked highlights with this vehicle. You'll see a lot of race cars out there that when you look at the highlights, they don't look as tailored. We even evaluated the highlights to make sure the surfaces went back through properly and were actual design surfaces and not just the result of aerodynamics alone.
"The surfaces that we were given, as being very delicate surfaces for aero, we made sure that we gave them as much love as we could, without changing the nature of it and the way it functioned. It kind of goes around the whole vehicle that way."
Q: So you worked closely with the Riley Technologies team and that worked well.
"That's a good example of how we earned the Riley Team's trust. It started out where there was a lot of surface area that they didn't want us to touch. Gradually we realized that we could make some of these changes, and by changes we meant some very subtle refinements. I remember asking about one change and they said, 'Well the car keeps getting smoother and it keeps getting faster, so let's go for it.' I think in that sense, we earned their trust. Gradually we worked our way around the car and ironed out the kinks and it turned out to benefit everybody.
"We knew the timing of this project was going to be pretty tight. How we started this carried on through the entire process. We mentioned earlier about the trust. I think Riley was pretty surprised at how open we were to what they needed. I think there was a little bit of concern coming into this that we wanted this design to be a certain way. We want it to look like this and they wanted it to work like this. I think right off the bat that trust was really established in terms of knowing that our timing was tight and knowing that we were up against the wall. From day one we had to work together to make this vehicle work in every aspect. We just took one step at a time and went through everything the way we needed to as a team and I think it really shows."
Q: You actually created this car in a very short timeframe. How do you get that done?
"Whenever you have a project that has extremely tight timing, one way or another the work takes a certain amount of time to do. When a project like this comes along, just the honor of working on it raises the level of excitement surrounding it. Everyone involved goes above and beyond in their own time and that's how it ultimately gets done.
"There is a certain amount of intensity and passion for a project like this that enables stuff to get done against all odds in a lot of ways. It was a group of passionate people working really hard and as efficiently as possible."
"This was really, truly done with a very small group. We kept it small and we kept it tight. Everyone had their role and respected everyone's function on the team. We just got it done. We worked together and there weren't a lot of roadblocks. We got a lot of trust from Ralph (Gilles) and Mark Trostle. That made the whole process go a lot smoother. It was very organic the way we worked.
Q: Are you done?
"Right now, I am really deep into refining the car even more for the coming season. It's an ongoing project for sure. Even throughout the season, the livery was always changing. It just never seemed to stop, which is fine. There was always something to do, which was good. With a project like this, you want to stay involved. It's an exciting thing to work on and it's good to be kept in the loop. I think that as long as the program is going the car will always be evolving."