Rumors that privateers might field the team that Dodge built haven't come to pass.
When Chrysler announced days after the company won the 2014 TUDOR United Sports Car Championship GT-Le Mans title with a solid performance at the season-ending Petit Le Mans that the company would no longer support the Dodge Viper SRT racing program, there were scattered rumors that the cars could hit the track at some point in 2015, fielded by privateer teams.
Less than two weeks before the official start of the TUDOR Championship season – the Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona International Speedway – it appears the championship-winning Viper GTS-Rs will remain parked, likely at Bill Riley’s Riley Technologies shop.
Chrysler Group “still owns them, and I’m not sure what the ultimate decision will be – but the company is keeping them for now,” said a source familiar with the situation.
It’s obvious that the TUDOR Challenge isn’t expecting Viper back in the GT-Le Mans class – the “Balance of Performance” formula was finalized the day after Christmas for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the only cars mentioned were the Aston Martin Vantage, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette C7-R, Ferrari 458 Italia and Porsche GT3 RSR.
Vipers remain in GT-Daytona
Vipers will, however, be in the field, likely with a couple of teams joining last year’s lone Viper entry in the GT-Daytona class, fielded by Viper Exchange dealer and race driver Ben Keating, with usual co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen. After a disastrous start to the 2014 season when the team’s lone Viper burned to the ground at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, Keating and Bleekemolen came back to win twice in 2014.
Though the GT-Daytona Viper GT3-R is based on the production car, it was developed and built mostly by Bill Riley, whose title last year was Team Director for SRT Motorsports. Riley Technologies, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, still sells the car -- $459,000 gets you a base car, capable of 680 horsepower, unrestricted, from the 512-cubic inch V-10. No, it isn't street-legal.
Of course, in the TUDOR Championship, it’s quite restricted, limited to 6,500 rpm, and breathing through a pair of 45mm air restrictors. That is the same as 2014, with the only Balance of Performance change being a mandated Daytona Prototype Crawford rear wing and a 10mm Gurney reduction.
So the Viper will live on in 2015 on the race track, and there is a 2015 Dodge Viper for the street, with a base price of $84,995, compared to the 2014 list price of $84,885. Power is 645 horses, up five from 2014. Will there be a 2016 Viper? That’s anyone’s guess.
SRT Motorsports seems to be history
And as for SRT Motorsports – well, there isn’t much left. Beth Paretta, Marketing and Operations Director for SRT Motorsports, left the company December 19. Ralph Gilles, an accomplished racer himself, is now listed as Senior Vice President, Product Design – he was President and CEO of Motorsports and the SRT Brand. SRT motorsports activities appear limited to Snocross sponsorship, and – through the MOPAR brand – NHRA drag racing.
There was also some backing last year of the Dodge Challenger entry in the Trans Am series, and there is presumably still some backing for the North American Road Racing Championship, long the home of Viper competition.
It’s sad that the Dodge Viper SRT won the championship, and then quit the series, but recall that the Penske-led Dodge Charger won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with Brad Keselowski in 2012, and quit that series. Those cars at least live on in the ARCA series, but apparently the GTLM Vipers are destined for museums.
Reportedly, all these cuts have been at the insistence of the Fiat executives in Europe, regardless of who does, or doesn’t fall on their swords in the U.S. Hopefully, Dodge and Chrysler will be back – in some form of motorsports.