Just getting to the end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an achievement. But for the SRT Vipers, making their return to the race after 13 years away, it’s vital experience for next year’s attack.
eturning to the 24 Hours of Le Mans
after a 13-year absence, the latest SRT
Viper GTS-R had big shoes to fill – the
original Viper had won its class three
straight years between 1998-’00. But to
run, first you must walk and 2013 was a
chance for SRT Motorsports to gain
priceless experience and come back ready
to win next time – just like Viper did in 1997.
In the No. 53 car, Marc Goossens, Ryan
Dalziel and Dominik Farnbacher combined
for 18 previous starts, while the No. 93’s
lineup of Tommy Kendall, Jonathan
Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer could count
one – Kendall in 2000. But that mixture of
experience and a clean-slate mentality was
all part of the plan as the long, intense week
at the Circuit de la Sarthe got underway...
Held in the historic heart of Le Mans, it’s
part tech inspection, part razzmatazz.
Judging by the buzz from the fans
packing the barriers, the return of Vipers
to the 24 Hours is one of the big stories.
Wednesday’s free practice and night
qualifying and Thursday’s pair of Q sessions
serve many purposes – working on race
setup, giving the drivers experience of night
running and, of course, qualifying the cars.
But rain and several stoppages disrupt both
days and ratchet up the intensity levels.
Despite the interruptions, the No. 53
SRT Viper GTS-R takes 10th in the GTE
Pro field with a 4m0.802s flyer. The No. 93
is one place behind. So far, so good. Class
pole at the 8.47-mile track is 6.167s under
the quickest Viper time, but with the
track’s grip level constantly changing in
the wet/dry, it’s not a representative gap.
No track activity, but don’t confuse that
with no activity. For the drivers, the parade
downtown, plus strategy meetings and
sponsor functions fill much of the day. For
the crews, it’s check and check again as the
cars are tweaked for the challenge ahead.
Slick pit work and bullet-proof reliability are
as crucial to a result as outright speed.