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Viper returning to 24 Hours of Le Mans

by David Zatz on

Two identically prepared SRT Viper GTS-Rs will return to the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, on June 22-23. It is Viper’s first “at bat” since finishing one-two in the GTS class for three consecutive years in 1998 to 2000; SRT will compete in the LM GTE Pro class.

The world’s oldest active sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is open by invitation only, to just 56 cars.

“Having the Viper return as a flagship, American sports car in general and SRT being elevated to a separate brand within Chrysler Group, it’s very symbolic for the company as a whole given the challenges we’re faced over the last four years,” said Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations of SRT Brand and Motorsports. “It was like a beacon while they were going through the darkest days of the company, when you weren’t even sure if the company was going to exist. You had this wonderful network and group of owners who were so passionate and loved this car so much because of the community and the friends that they’ve made just by owning this special car. So the idea that it could have gone away was very sad for them. The fact that it survived is something that a lot of people rally around and are so happy and rightfully emotional about because it’s such a big part of their lives.”

The Viper hasn’t been on the Le Mans stage since 2000 but Paretta and the SRT Motorsports team have a good idea what to expect. They attended the race last year to formulate a plan should an invitation come.

“We went to do some research should we ever get back on the track at Le Mans and were astounded by the interest shown by the amount of fans who lined up and waited to simply get a glimpse of our SRT Viper GTS-R show car and take photos.” said Paretta.

Although Le Mans was the target, the SRT Motorsports team is somewhat surprised it came so soon. “The goal was to get to Le Mans but none of us thought that we’d get there our first year out, honestly,” continued Paretta. “We’re not taking any minute of it for granted because of the process of either qualifying or getting invited. Because we had a short year last year, we had to rely on a direct invitation. You can see how hard everybody is working, putting their heart and soul into this because to be there is just amazing.”

Vipers are also being fielded in the American Le mans series and the forthcoming United SportsCar Racing series, coming from the blending of ALMS and Grand-AM Road Racing.

“It means a lot to our customers because the racing pedigree of the car can largely be determined with this one annual race,” said Russ Ruedisueli, Head of SRT Motorsports Engineering – Chrysler Group LLC. “For our engineering team, it’s the ultimate endurance test to see how well we’ve developed the cars and seeing how they perform over 24 hours.”

SRT Motorsports has partnered with Riley Technologies, based in Mooresville, N.C., on the design-and-build process of the SRT Viper GTS-Rs. The two cars competed in four ALMS races in 2012 in preparation of the full 2013 season. In the first three races this year, the No. 91 has recorded three consecutive top-five finishes including a podium – third – at Long Beach. The driver stable includes Marc Goossens, Dominik Farnbacher, Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer. They are joined by Tommy Kendall and Ryan Dalziel for the endurance events.

The Viper’s successful racing heritage began in 1996 with its first racing entry, the original GTS-R, which earned five international GT championships and the 1997 to 1999 FIA GT championships in addition to the three consecutive one-two finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTS class.

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