When the Viper was reborn as a halo product for Chrysler Group’s newly formed SRT brand, the motorsport ambitions for the new vehicle was made apparent right from the start. Unlike the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that will leave fans in the larch for the C7R version race car, the SRT Viper GTS-R was on prominent display alongside the 640-horsepower, V-10 powered street vehicle. Debuting in four races last season in the American Le Mans Series, SRT Motorsports’ appearance was in preparations for a full-fledged 2013 assault on the likes of teams campaigning the BMW M3, Ferrari 458, Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette. In addition to the full calendar for what will be the final American Le Mans Series ahead of a the 2014 merger with the Grand-Am sports car series, the SRT Viper GTS-R will be making a return to the French 24-hour endurance classic.
Announced on Friday, SRT Motorsports confirmed they have accepted an invitation from the 24 Hours of Le Mans race sanctioning body for the 2013 event. With the race set for June 22nd and 23rd, two SRT Viper GTS-R race vehicles will participate in the special endurance challenge. Unlike many racing events that accept almost any team that wishes to place a car at the track for time trials, making the field for the Le Mans 24-hour race is a more exclusive honour. The ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) invite teams they feel most confident will be best prepared for competition at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The news is actually a return for the Mopar backed supercar. When the closed cockpit Viper GTS was introduced in 1996, French operation Oreca quickly found success campaigning a race version of the supercar in Europe. Recognized as the Chrysler Viper GTS-R (the Dodge brand did not possess an official presence in the European market as the time), Viper Team Ocera was dominant in the FIA GT Championship from 1997 to 1999. Viper Team Ocera captured their GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for three consecutive years from 1998 to 2000. The Viper GTS-R was also fielded by the Larbre Competition team for the 2001 to 2003 editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the wake of the success of Oreca, ambitious efforts from the Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari 550 and Saleen S7R would lessen the Viper’s bite on the GT class competition in the vehicle’s later years.
Returning from a 10-year absence, the latest Viper GTS-R will once again enjoy a full commitment from the Chrysler factory. SRT Motorsports and their technical partner Riley Technologies are certainly readying a winning team for June’s showing in France. Despite the race’s outcome, hearing the American-made, V-10 powered Viper GTS-R back competing on the Circuit de la Sarthe will definitely bring an exotic flavour to the 2013 race.
Information and photo source: Chrysler Group