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Viper dominates GTD at the Rolex 24

by Patrick Rall on

Many Mopar racing fans were crushed to hear that the company had pulled their factory support for the Dodge Viper GTS-R racing program after winning a 2014 championship. It seemed that the 2015 endurance racing season would be hard for fans of the Viper racing program.

Things changed when we learned that Ben Keating’s #33 Dodge Viper GT3-R would be returning to compete in the GT Daytona segment for the 2015 Tudor United Sports Car Championship and the season’s outlook got a whole lot brighter when it was learned that Riley Technologies would also bring out a new #93 Viper GT3-R, featuring some drivers from the 2014 GT LeMans championship team.

33 viper rolex

Mopar fans have two different teams to cheer for in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona, but could the teams really compete in the massive GT Daytona field without the factory support? Keating’s team competed in the GTD class throughout 2014 and even posted a few wins late in the season, but the #33 Viper wasn’t a contender in the big races.

Like many Mopar fans, I was optimistic about the #33 Viper’s Rolex 24 run this year – especially with the addition of Marc Goossens to the team. However, I was excited to see how GTLM champions Kuno Wittmer and Dominic Farnbacher fared in the 2015 running of the Rolex 24. They have proven the capabilities in a modern Viper race car, but there is a big difference between their Viper GTR-S in GTLM last year and this year’s #93 GT3-R Viper.

During the first three practice sessions, the #33 Viper (driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Goossens, and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen) was one of the top dogs in the GT Daytona class, while the #93 Viper of Kuno Wittmer, Cameron Lawrence, Al Carter and Dominik Farnbacher struggled to get out of the middle of the pack. This continued in qualifying, when the #33 Viper claimed the second place starting spot behind only the #007 Aston Martin, while the #93 Viper was penalized for an on-track event that forced that half of the team to forfeit their quickest lap.

As a result, the #93 Viper qualified 16th out of 19 GTD entries, and when the team opted to change tires before the race and as a result of that choice, the #93 Viper started dead last.

In the first few hours of the race, the #33 Viper quickly moved to the front of the GTD field, spending the early stages battling with the front-runners from Ferrari and Porsche. Meanwhile, the #93 Viper spent the first four hours pushing through the GTD crowd, joining the top five in the class and when the first 6-hour segment of the 2015 Rolex 24 was completed, the #93 Viper was in first place in the GTD class while the #33 car had slipped to 5th.

The two Viper teams spent the duration of the second 6-hour stint at the front of the GTD field, with pit stops forcing them to relinquish the lead several times. When this second 6-hour scoring portion of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup had come to an end, the #93 Viper had slipped to second while the #33 car continued to sit in 5th. The #33 Viper would take the class lead shortly after the 12 hour mark, but a few hours later, the car came to rest on the track with mechanical issues. That dashed the hopes of winning the Rolex 24 for Keating as his team, but the #93 Viper continued to be a front-runner.93 viper rolex win

The #93 Viper of Carter, Wittmer, Farnbacher and Lawrence led the class at the 18-hour mark and as the teams entered the final quarter of the race, it was clear that the Viper was the class leader of the GTD field. The closest competitor was the #22 Porsche 911 of Alex Job Racing, and while the Porsche got close from time to time, it just didn’t appear to have the power to overtake the Viper. This was confirmed late in the race during an interview with Alex Jobs, in which he clearly stated that they just didn’t have the speed to catch the Viper.

IMSA-Watches-WebEven with pit stops, the #93 Viper was just too fast for the Porsche to catch up, and Dominik Farnbacher cruised to victory in the GTD class – beating the #22 Porsche by 7.588 seconds and finishing a very solid 13th overall in the 53-car field. The #33 Viper settled for a 9th place finish in class, 23rd overall.

This dominating performance by the Dodge Viper GT3-R teams is proof that the teams can compete in the GT Daytona field without factory backing. After so much disappointment following the end of the factory Viper program late in 2014, the Viper teams look poised to take a run at another championship title in 2015.

A quick “who’s who” on the teams:

Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen drove Keating’s No. 33 Viper in GT Daytona competition last year.

Dominik Farnbacher, Kuno Wittmer and Marc Goossens all drove for SRT Motorsports in the 2014 season with Wittmer winning the championship in GT Le Mans. Goossens finished fourth and Farnbacher finished fifth. The only SRT driver missing this year is Jonathan Bomarito, 2014’s runner-up in the GT Le Mans point standings, who drove a Mazda in the Prototype Class. Bomarito should have stayed with the Viper; the Mazda lasted only a little over 6.5 hours in the 24-hour race.

Cameron Lawrence drove a Dodge Challenger to the Trans Am TA2 championship last year.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona: GT Daytona Class Results
Overall Class Drivers Car. No. Car Laps Time
13 1 D.Farnbacher/Carter/Wittmer/Lawrence 93 Dodge Viper SRT 704 24:01:43.398
14 2 MacNeil/L.Keen/A.Davis/ van Gisbergen 22 Porsche 911 GT America 704 24:01:50.986
15 3 Snow/Heylen/Dempsey/Eng 58 Porsche 911 GT America 702 24:02:43.815
18 4 Lathouras/Rugolo/Aguas/ Griffin 49 Ferrari 458 Italia 701 24:02:31.168
19 5 Haase/B.Miller/von Moltke/Rast 48 Audi R8 LMS 695 24:01:59.869
20 6 Sweedler/T.Bell/Lazzaro/Segal/ Westphal 63 Ferrari 458 Italia 691 23:55:12.338
21 7 Faulkner/Giermaziak/Skeen/ Butcher/Avenatti 81 Porsche 911 GT America 687 24:02:24.667
22 8 DeBoer/Riddle/Salazar/Wilson 9 Aston Martin V12 Vantage 678 24:02:16.938
23 9 Keating/J.Bleekemolen/Goossens/S.Bleekemolen 33 Dodge Viper SRT 674 23:29:33.840
24 10 Winkelhock/Thorne/Hoshino/ Fujii 45 Audi R8 LMS 670 24:01:59.832
29 11 Potter/Lally/Seefried/ Ragginger 44 Porsche 911 GT America 616 24:01:58.659
30 12 Marsal/Palttala/Priaulx/Said 97 BMW Z4 604 24:02:11.309
31 13 Nielsen/Davison/Nygaard/Davis 7 Aston Martin V12 Vantage 593 24:02:16.925
34 14 Longo/Serra/Gomes/Bertolini 64 Ferrari 458 Italia 545 18:45:12.435
35 15 Basseng/M.Beretta/O’Young/De Phillippi/Mayr-Melnhof 18 Porsche 911 GT America 539 24:02:21.087
37 16 Lindsey/Pumpelly/Norman/N. Canache/Estre 73 Porsche 911 GT America 532 19:16:27.568
40 17 J.Michaelian/Lira/Flores/ De Phillippi/Mayr-Mel 19 Porsche 911 GT America 414 24:01:00.241
47 18 James/M.Farnbacher/Riberas 23 Porsche 911 GT America 233 8:06:33.771
50 19 Bachler/Zoechling/Engelhart/ Willsey/Ineichen 28 Porsche 911 GT America 176 7:57:08.940

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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