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Vipers return to Grand Am in 2012

by Bill Cawthon on

The Dodge Viper is returning to Rolex Series racing. After a multi-year absence, the hottest Dodge will be part of a new direction for GT veteran Racers Edge Motorsports of DeLand, Florida.

Since 2007, Racers Edge has been running Mazdas and Pontiacs, but now the team is developing Vipers for Dodge Motorsports in both 2012 Grand-Am series. The Grand American Rolex Series is the top level for sports car endurance racing in North America. The races last from two to twenty-four hours and will be the ultimate test of the speed and reliability of the Viper Competition Coupe.

“We have been working closely with Grand-Am officials and our suppliers to develop a Viper spec engine that meets all of Grand-Am’s requirements,” said David Bailey, Senior Manager, SRT Motorsports Engineering. “We are very excited to see the Viper and Racers Edge competing in the Rolex Series next year.”

Racers Edge Motorsports is preparing a pair of Viper Competition Coupes, No. 85 and No. 87, for the Rolex Series. Doug Peterson and Jan Heylen will co-drive the No. 87 Motorsports Viper. The No. 85 will serve primarily as a test car. The 3,000-pound cars have lightweight composite bodies on a tubular steel space frames. They are equipped with V10 engines and four-wheel ventilated-rotor brakes.

“We are pleased that Racers Edge has chosen to race the Dodge Viper in the Grand-Am Rolex Series for 2012,” said Beth Paretta, Director of SRT Marketing. “The field is more diverse and competitive than ever and the Viper, with its racing pedigree, will be an exciting addition. We look forward to seeing Racers Edge on the podium in 2012.”

Peterson and Heylen will also co-drive the No. 87 Dodge Challenger SRT8 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Racers Edge will field two cars in 2012 Grand Sport competition, including the No. 86 for the father-son team of Rod and D.J. Randall.

“It is great to be heading up this new program,” said team owner Jon Mirachi. “The Viper Competition Coupe is an incredible machine and will make a great Rolex GT weapon for us to compete with for the championship. The Challenger SRT8 program is also fantastic and we can’t wait to hit the track with that famous Hemi power.”

“Building two new cars from scratch in just a few months has been an enormous undertaking,” Mirachi continued. “We’re pushing our own staff to the limit, but with our technical partners – 3 Dimensional Services Group and the engineers from SRT Motorsports Engineering – we were able to complete the task and build a couple of really high quality race cars. We are really looking forward to 2012.”

The last Dodge Viper to race in the Rolex Series was in the 2002 Rolex 24, with an American Viper Racing entry finishing 13th in GTS. Viper won one of its two starts in 2001, with Eric Messley and Ritch Marziale winning the GTS class at Phoenix.

The factory ORECA Dodge team won the inaugural Grand-Am event, the 2000 Rolex 24, with a lineup of Karl Wendlinger, Olivier Beretta and Dominique Dupuy. Vipers took three of the top five overall positions in that event, with Rolex Series regular David Donohue part of the third-place lineup.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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