The Dodge Viper GTS-R is the car that dreams have been made of since the day the first prototype was revealed to the public. The original Viper was conceived and nurtured by Chrysler’s leaders who recognized that there was an opportunity to capture the nation’s attention with an ultra-high performance sports car unlike anything else on the market. The story begins back in 1988 when Chrysler President Bob Lutz suggested to Tom Gale at Chrysler Design, that they consider developing a modern day version of the original Shelby Cobra.
A clay model was prepared within a few months, followed by an actual full scale prototype that was built by Metalcrafters in California. The prototype Viper debuted in the Dodge exhibit at the 1989 North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, where it was the hit of the show. Response from the public was so overwhelmingly positive that the green light was given by management to move the program forward and Team Viper was born. Chief Engineer Roy Sjorberg was chosen to head it up, and along with 85 engineers, the team went right to work developing the Viper as an actual production vehicle.
Above left: Viper GTS-R leads C7R Corvette through corner at Watkins Glen. Above right: The Number 93 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R driven by Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito started from the pole. Here, it’s leading two Audi R8’s on its way to finishing first in GTLM class in the IMSA TUDOR.
When Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca personally approved the program in 1990, consumer excitement for the vehicle hit a new high, and many went to their local Dodge dealer to place a deposit to secure an early car. The most highly anticipated sports car of the new decade, the Viper was chosen as the Pace Car for the 1991 Indianapolis 500 Race. Fittingly, since it was inspired by the original Cobra, it was driven by none other than racing legend Carroll Shelby. Production commenced later that year and by 1992, the first new Vipers were being delivered to enthusiastic buyers.
One of the things the Viper accomplished, was that it was proved that Chrysler was back in a big way after its near brush with extinction in 1980. Since the day it went into production, this ten cylinder Viper has left an indelible mark on both the street and the track as one of the ultimate sports cars in the world.
Above left: The Dodge Viper GTS-R in the earlier season racing livery at Laguna Seca in 2014. Above right: The No. 91 Viper SRT GTS-R on track during the Saturday night fireworks at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Over the years, the Viper has continued to evolve since it was first conceived. And like the Cobra that originally inspired it, Vipers have raced in sanctioned events and achieved podium performances all over the world. During the last several years in particular, the successes have come at an incredible pace, a testimony to the high degree of sophistication that this vehicle features, especially the SRT GTS-R racing versions. In fact, it’s the red hot American supercar that has forever earned its stripes and left an indelible mark on the record books.
Recently, at the Petit LeMans, held at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, the two-car SRT Motorsports team won the team and driver (Kuno Wittmer) titles in the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTLM-class. In addition, SRT Motorsports won two-of-three championships contested in the class and finished second in the GTLM manufacturer championship in just the second full year of the program.
Above left: Number 91 Team Viper GTS-R blasts out of the pits ahead of number 93 at Watkins Glen International Raceway in New York. Above right: Viper GTS-R at full chat on the straight at the Glen.
And while Chrysler Group LLC announced recently that it is discontinuing the factory-backed SRT (Street and Racing Technology) Motorsports racing program in IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) with the conclusion of the 2014 season, it’s certainly safe to say that we have not seen the last of Vipers racing in competition.
Ralph Gilles, Senior Vice President of Product Design, Chrysler Group LLC said it best. “We are very proud of the amazing achievements our fantastic teams, drivers and partners have achieved on track the last few seasons. We thank them for their hard work, effort and commitment to SRT Motorsports. It’s been an honor to be a part of the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season and we wish them every success in the future.”
In celebration of the achievements of one of the premier racing vehicles in the world, join us for this pictorial celebrating the Viper GTS-R in its element, on the track, winning races.
Above left: The No. 91 Viper SRT GTS-R on track during the Saturday night fireworks at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Above right: Man and machine Kuno Wittmer and the Viper GTS-R.
“Celebrating An American Champion: The Proud Legacy of the Viper SRT GTS-R” was first publishing in Pentastar Power by Larry Weiner in January 2015, and can be read in its entirety HERE.