Saturday saw the Viper makes its much-anticipated return to competitive motorsports when SRT Motorsport's Team Viper successfully campaigned its pair of Viper GTS-R cars in the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. What did success look like? Far from a podium finish, Team Viper was pleased just to have both cars finish the race, and was pleasantly surprised to have one crack the top ten.

The two cars fielded were the No. 91 Forza Motorsports Viper GTS-R (blue/silver) driven by Kuno Wittmer and Dominik Farnbacher and the No. 93 Pennzoil Ultra car (yellow/silver) driven by Marc Gooseens and Tommy Kendall.

We were at the race and watched both Vipers make their debut. While not nearly quick enough yet to threaten the Corvettes, Porsches, BMWs and Ferraris that contend fiercely for the GT Class crown, the Vipers were nonetheless very consistent and Team Viper reports the cars actually got quicker as the race progressed.

While the No. 91 car made it through Mid-Ohio's 15-turn, 2.4-mile course all day without incident, and in fact spent most of its time running down the black-and-gold liveried Lotus Evora of Alex Job Racing, the No. 93 had two incidents, including an off-track excursion in the final minutes of the race. The GT Class was won on Saturday in a thrilling finish by Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin, who held off the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in his No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 for the race's final 20 minutes.

With the addition of the Viper this year (and the Lotus Evora), the GT Class of ALMS racing has become one of our favorite series to watch, especially in person where the personalities of these cars can be felt thundering in your ears. The Viper's 8.4-liter V10 engine makes a very distinct sound on the track. While not as gutteral as the Corvette's 5.5-liter V8, it's also not as loud as the BMW M3's 4.0-liter V8 nor as shrieky as the Ferrari 458 Italia's 4.5-liter V8 either. It falls somewhere in between the the Corvette and BMW, and could stand to have its volume cranked up a notch. And though the Viper's new design looked the part of a menacing GT car on the track, we hope at some point the cars will be wearing liveries that harken back to the red-and-white-striped Oreca Vipers that dominated early ALMS racing.

The next time Team Viper competes will be at Road America in two weeks.
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TEAM VIPER ACHIEVE GOAL – BOTH CARS FINISH ALMS RACE

LEXINGTON, OHIO (Saturday, Aug. 5, 2012) – SRT Motorsports' Team Viper was candid about its mission in Saturday's American Le Mans Series event at Mid-Ohio. The mission – have both SRT Viper GTS-R race cars running at the finish of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge in the GT class. Mission accomplished.

Team Viper was making its return to the ALMS series. Not only were both cars running at the finish, the performance improved throughout the two-hour, 45-minute timed event. As an added bonus, one of the Viper GTS-Rs had a top-10 finish.

Kuno Wittmer and Dominik Farnbacher finished 10th in the No. 91 Forza Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R while Marc Goossens and Tommy Kendall were 12th in the No. 93 Pennzoil Ultra SRT Viper GTS-R.

"Our first goal was to get through the race without any major problems," said Gary Johnson, Road Racing Manger – SRT Motorsports. "We accomplished that. In fact, we were making progress throughout the race. The cars were getting better. Today's race gives us an opportunity to know where the issues are and where we need to focus."

Even though both teams reached the primary goal of finishing in the debut, everyone agrees there's plenty of work ahead before the specially-prepared Viper GTS-R race cars, built by Bill Riley and Riley Technologies, take the track at Road America in two weeks.

"It wasn't pretty but both cars finished," said Riley. "We've got a lot to build on. We're about two seconds off where we need to be and that showed in the race. Now we need to build on that and go from there. We were consistent but there are things we have to work on. There are gains to make with the car. We'll keep chipping away on it. I think we'll get about half of the gap taken care of pretty quickly."

Wittmer says there were more positives than just having both cars running at the finish. "We learned so much today as far as driver comfort, car handling, chassis, and motor, everything in the package," he said. "This was a great test. We have to keep working at it but a top 10 is not a bad start."

Farnbacher was pleased he and Wittmer didn't make an on-track mistake. "We didn't make a mistake," he said. "We didn't go off the track. It's a good start for both teams, something to build on for the next race."

Kendall and Goossens had two minor incidents – slight contact with another car early in the race and a trek off course in one of the turns in the final minutes – but the No. 93 continued it consistent pace to the checkered flag.

Kendall said having both cars finish was positive for the day. "Our goal was to run as many laps as we could and finish both cars," he said. "It's a tribute to this group, all the guys on these two cars. We've got plenty to work on. I'm encouraged. I thought our race pace was decent. There's certainly some good take-aways."

Goossens was pleased with the consistency. "We showed we can be consistent," he said. "We had a good solid race, both cars. There's still a lot of work to do. That's normal after your first race."

Race Results
American Le Mans Series
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012

1. Gavin/Milner - Corvette
2. Bergmeister/Long - Porsche
3. Muller/Auberlen - BMW
4. Henzler/Sellers - Porsche
5. Hand/Muller - BMW
6. Sharp/van Overbeek - Ferrari
7. Neiman/Holzer - Porsche
8. Brown/Cosmo - Ferrari
9. Miller/Maassen - Porsche
10. WITTMER/FARNBACHER - SRT Viper GTS-R
11. Sweedler/Bell - Lotus
12. GOOSSENS/KENDALL - SRT Viper GTS-R
13. Magnussen/Garcia - Corvette