Chrysler Vipers take sabbatical from racing

Auburn Hills, Michigan, December 21, 2000 -- The season finale to the American Le Mans Series in Adelaide, Austalia, on December 31, will mark the final race for the factory-backed Chrysler Viper GTS R/T. DaimlerChrysler's endurance racing ...

Auburn Hills, Michigan, December 21, 2000 -- The season finale to the American Le Mans Series in Adelaide, Austalia, on December 31, will mark the final race for the factory-backed Chrysler Viper GTS R/T.

DaimlerChrysler's endurance racing activities will continue with its Mopar Parts division and Team ORECA in the Le Mans Prototype class next year, while ORECA will also maintain its support of customer teams racing the Viper GTS R/T.

"The Viper's success in international endurance over the past few years has been without peer," said Jim Julow, Vice President, Dodge Global Brand Center. "We owe a debt of gratitude to the drivers, teams and engineers who have this spectacular sports car and made it a feared competitor. The brand couldn't ask for a better ambassador. In the not too distant future, we will unveil a new generation Viper. And we hope to make it every bit as competitive as the current World Champion Viper GTS R/T."

Lou Patane, DaimlerChrysler Vice President, Motorsport Operations and Mopar Performance Parts, said: "The Viper GTS R/T has achieved all of the goals that we could ever have dreamed for it, winning prestigious and hard-fought titles on both sides of the Atlantic not once, but twice. It has become the most successful production-based racing car in history and has set the standard for Chrysler's motorsport activities in the prototype category. I want to thank Hugues and the ORECA team for everything that they have achieved on behalf of DaimlerChrysler with the Viper."

The Viper has earned the distinction of being America's ultimate sportscar, and more than 14,000 have been sold since 1992. During the Viper GTS R/T's four-year stay at the peak of international endurance racing, Chrysler's official supported Team ORECA won 44 races in the FIA GT Championship, the American Le Mans Series, the Le Mans 24 hours and the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona.

The Chrysler Viper racecar began life in the GT1 class in the BPR series in 1996. The escalating costs persuaded the manufacturer to switch to the GT2 class for the 1997 season. The Viper's production volumes (approximately 1,500 annually) qualified it for the category and it embarked on a racing program that was to earn it a reputation as the most successful production-based racing car of all time.

Justin Bell drove the Viper GTS R/T to the 1997 FIA GT2 Drivers' championship crown while Chrysler won the championship for teams. In 1998, Olivier Beretta, the Monegasque who has been involved with the Viper project from the start in 1996, raced to his first championship sharing with Portuguese Pedro Lamy. Chrysler Corporation won its first manufacturers' championship title that year.

In 1999 it was again Beretta that raced to victory in the FIA series, sharing it this time with Austrian Karl Wendlinger. The same year saw the Chrysler Viper GTS R/Ts racing on home ground in the American Le Mans Series, starting the season late but winning all six events entered for Beretta to claim the championship for drivers.

The 2000 season was something of unfinished business for the Viper Team ORECA with the manufacturers' and teams' crowns yet to be won in the ALMS. With nine wins out of 11 races during the year, Beretta scored his third drivers' crown with the Viper, ORECA its first championship for teams and DaimlerChrysler won the manufacturers title. The set was now complete with both drivers' and manufacturers' titles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Endurance racing is about Le Mans, and there, too, the Viper has excelled by winning three consecutive victories. Justin Bell, Luca Drudi and David Donohue steered the car to its first Le Mans win in 1998 ahead of teammates Beretta, Lamy and Tommy Archer. The team repeated the 1-2 feat the following year, Beretta, Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy racing to victory ahead of Archer, Bell and Marc Duez. The hat-trick was completed in 2000, with Beretta, Wendlinger and Dupuy again winning, this time ahead of Donohue, Ni Amorim and Anthony Beltoise.

But there was more, and it was the victory at Daytona at the start of the year that cemented the Chrysler Viper GTS R/T's place in the history books. Winning its class in every championship showed its dominance against its own kind, but when it raced to overall victory at the Rolex 24, the speed, reliability and quality of the Viper was truly shown. "It will be a sad day in Adelaide when the drivers park the cars and switch them off for the final time," said ORECA Director Hugues de Chaunac. "We have had a lot of success with this car. Now, it will go into the history book as one of the most successful racing cars of its era, and I am quite honored to have been a part of this history."

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Series ALMS
Drivers Karl Wendlinger , Pedro Lamy , Tommy Archer , Justin Bell , Luca Drudi , Olivier Beretta , Marc Duez , Dominique Dupuy , Anthony Beltoise , Hugues de Chaunac