82 2014 srt sPeCIaL
“I got used to driving formula cars at
Long Beach,” says Jonathan Bomarito,
who led the 2008 running of the atlantic
series support race to the toyota Grand
Prix of Long Beach until gearbox failure
rendered him a dNF. “so when I first
drove a sports car here, yeah, the track
felt a lot smaller, especially apex to exit.
“With the lighter formula car, from
mid-corner to track-out, having more
aero and more grip allows you to make
little adjustments to your line. With a
sports car, you have to be thinking
ahead more. When you turn in, the
car’s already on edge, and it’s moving,
sliding toward the exit, so you’ve got to
be prepared. once that momentum
starts, where the car ends up is where
it’s gonna end up, so you’ve got to hope
you predicted its trajectory accurately!”
the ironic thing about the racecar, of
course, is that competition restrictions
bring it down to 480-500hp, some way
short of the road car’s 640hp. Yet
despite that and sticky tires, there’s
still enough juice to spin the tires.
“Yeah, early in the weekend, you’ll
deal with traction issues on a temporary
street course,” says Bomarito. “there’s
a lot of dirt on the track and no race
rubber build-up at that stage. so when
you’re coming out of the final turn, the
hairpin, or the Fountain turn, turn 3,
and you’re in first gear, getting the tires
to hook up and bite is a problem. the
rules allow us to run traction control,
but because everyone runs it, tC is just
a huge tuning tool, and how it engages
takes you into a whole other avenue of
development. I tell you, we have a lot to
work through during our practice laps…”
sNaKes oN tHe streets
SLITHERING AROUND LONG BEACH
(TOP) From any
angle, the Viper GTS
menace. That didn’t
waving and giving
during our shoot.
The illuminated rev
reminds you you’re
in Viper territory.
got the steering, which I think is excellent.
That ability to absorb bumps we were
talking about earlier? Well that pays off
again here, because the steering-wheel
gives you weight and feedback, but not
kickback. And even though these are
big tires, the car doesn’t furrow in the
grooves on the road, doesn’t steer itself.”
In an era when almost all the Viper’s
rivals in the 180mph-plus club have
semi-auto gearboxes, it’s nice to step
into a supercar that still has three pedals.
And the transmission is slick, too.
“They got it just right, didn’t they?”
agrees Bomarito. “The gate is very
precise – you always know which gear
you’re grabbing ≠– and the clutch action is
smooth, too. There’s no problem trickling
along in traffic in low gears. It behaves.”
The Viper’s tractability is further
enhanced by the nature of the engine,
too. While the car is capable of throwing
you at the horizon at a moment’s notice,
the long throttle pedal travel also allows
a driver to be very precise on the gas,
unleashing exactly the right number of
horses. In short, it’s a domesticated beast.
“I’d even describe it as civilized,
actually,” says Bomarito, “especially this
GTS model, which has sat-nav and leather
upholstery, and really nice detailing in the
interior. Sure, the side exhausts are loud
when you’re pushing hard, but it’s a Viper,
man! It’s bought by ‘car people’ who’d say
that’s part of the Viper’s DNA. It just adds
to the racecar-to-street car credibility which
this car has, despite being docile, too.”
That’s a major compliment from a
guy who’s aiming to race an SRT Viper to
Victory Lane in the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours,
the inaugural round of the TUDOR United
SportsCar Championship. But there’s a
bigger endorsement yet.
“I think what I like most about the Viper,”
concludes Bomarito, “is that you don’t
drive it just to get from A to B. You don’t
use the Bluetooth to chat on the phone.
I mean, I don’t even switch the radio on!
I just listen to the engine, focus completely
on the driving, and absorb the experience.
That’s because it’s a great experience.”
• RACER thanks the City of Long Beach
for its help in shooting this feature.