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2016 Goodbyes: The Viper, Part 2

GT3, GTD and GTLM, from Competition Coupe to GT3-R

riley-viper-imsa-2016-petit-le-mans

Three more iterations of Viper racer make up Part Two of this 2016 Goodbye as the frontline racing history of the V10 coupe comes to a close after 22 years.

Chrysler Viper Competition Coupe

Just as the GT1/ GT2/ GTS Viper GTS-R era drew to a close the GT3 era was dawning.

And both Chrysler and Oreca had plans to continue the success story on track of the racing snake.

It involved a GT3-legal version of the track-only Viper Competition Coupe, launched in 2001 and racing from then on in club racing and the then SPEED World Challenge, Tommy Archer taking the 2004 title in a Viper Competition Coupe.

dodge-viper-tommy-archer-2004

2006 saw a deal in place for Oreca to market and support the cars in Europe, in time for the genesis of the new FIA GT3 Championship. The 8.3 litre V10 engined, c.530 bhp package was right on the button it seemed for the new class.

dodge-viper-larbre-competition-2006

Larbre Competition (under the Racing Logistic banner, above), Pouchelon Racing (below) & Racing Box (second below) all entered three cars for the first season of the new FIA GT3 European Championship in 2006.

dodge-viper-pouchelon-racing-2006

dodge-viper-silverstone-2006

The Viper proved equal to the task in year one, five wins in the ten races in 2006 made the Dodge the most successful car of the season, but the title evaded the Viper teams as the wins were spread across the Larbre and Racing Box cars.

dodge-viper-rpm-2007

Thereafter the rapid development in GT3 saw the Vipers drop away, a couple of podium finishes for the RPM run Vipers in 2007 (above), another pair for La Torre Motorsport (below) in 2008 the last visits in the Championship for Viper crews.

dodge-viper-la-torre-motorsport-2008

Zakspeed’s two car effort in 2010 the last time the Viper would feature on the entry, but the campaign remaining a podium-free zone.

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On the national racing front though there was success for the Competition Coupe.

Two British GT Championship titles came in 2007 for RPM Racing.

dodge-viper-rpm-rockingham-2007

And in 2008 for ex Viper GTS-R campaigners Brookspeed.

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And there were class titles in the Dutch Supercar Challenge too.

dodge-viper-grouwels

There was though another GT3 Viper ‘in the works’, this time with Riley Technologies. Before then though there as an even more exciting move as SRT announced plans to bring their new 2013 model year Viper back to factory racing.

SRT Viper GTS-R

(L) 2013 SRT Viper GTS-R and (R) 2013 SRT Viper GTS

The announcement came in 2012 at the New York Auto show with the car(s) debut coming in the ALMS at Mid Ohio in August and the first win coming the following season at Road America.

The new car was not without controversy, an oversize V10 allowed via the waiver process, a small price to pay for another of the ‘Big Three’ in IMSA racing.

2013 also saw the cars compete at the Le Mans 24 Hours for what would prove to be their only outing there in factory hands.

srt-viper-le-mans

2014 saw the merger of the ALMS and Grand-Am produce IMSA’s Tudor United Sportscar Championship, a further pair of wins and consistent points finishes clinching both the Teams and Driver’s Championship for the #93 squad of Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito.

The cars had though already been pulled out of the Le Mans 24 Hours and Viper production was soon to be announced as ending before the 2017 model year, a late season change to the iconic red with white stripes livery added a touch of pride but ultimately the October announcement of the end of the programme was no major surprise.

2014-dodge-viper-imsa

The paddock patter that the Viper had effectively been assisted to the titles (via BoP) in the hopes of rescuing the programme provides an unfortunate epitaph for the effort, a fan favourite that was simply out of time.

There was one final hurrah for the GTLM car as Ben Keating (of whom more in a moment) entered a single car for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours in the GTE Am class.

srt-viper-gtlm-le-mans

Viper dealer Keating had by now had some success with the car’s GT3 spec offspring, the Viper was a welcome addition to the Le Mans grid, qualified well up in the class field but failed to finish. An attempt to enter the car the following year received a polite ‘Non’ from the ACO.

SRT Viper GT3-R

Le Mans in 2013 saw the unveiling of the GT3 version of the newest Viper, again a product of Riley Technologies and designed to break into the lucrative GT3 Customer motorsport marketplace on both sides of the Atlantic.

srt-viper-gt3-r-le-mans-unveil

In such a packed marketplace though progress was slow, the early adopter for the new car was Ben Keating, he’d eventually campaign a pair of the cars, with no little success, in IMSA competition, the second car usually reserved for the enduros.

srt-viper-gt3-r-lraceart

The second went to Dutch outfit Team RaceArt (above) for a competitive campaign in the Dutch Supercar Challenge and BRSCC in Belgium and the third to Lone Star Racing in Pirelli World Challenge, the car also seeing IMSA action last season.

lone-star-racing-imsa-gtd-viper-2016

The factory team entered Kuno Wittmer in a one-off Pirelli World Challenge effort, that car later sold to, and campaigned by Tim Pappas’s Black Swan Racing outfit in PWC.

wittmer-gt3-viper

black-swan-viper

The Riley/ Viper Exchange effort saw a pair of wins in 2014 for the solo car (at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and CoTA, this after a disastrous fire all but gutted the car at Sebring.

tuscc-ctmp-viper-exchange

There were four wins in 2015 (two apiece for the full season car and two at the Rolex 24 and 6 Hours of the Glen Enduros for the sister #93), results that would help the team, and drivers Cameron Lawrence and Al Carter to the 2015 Patron North American Endurance Cup in the #93.

tuscc-watkins-glen-viper-exchange

There were a further three wins on the way to second in the GTD Championship in the final season, 2016, including a win in the topsy turvy GTD race, Petit Le mans, the car’s final planned race, for Keating and long-time driving partner Jeroen Bleekemolen before the curtain came down on the programme, Mercedes AMG providing the 2017 motive power for the team.

plm-viper-exchange

And so, for now at least, the contemporary racing history of the Viper concludes – with two decades of success on track derailed eventually by a drying up of demand for the road going product.

There is a Part 3 of this story to come, the epic tale of just how far one team will go to keep their race winning cars in contention, coming very soon on DSC!