By Patrick Rall
This past weekend, the SRT Viper GTS-R race teams took to the track of the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario for the Mobil 1 Sports Car Grand Prix and the result was the best weekend thus far for the new Viper race program. After qualifying in the 1st and 3rd spots in the GT class, both teams finished on the podium in the class while finishing 12th and 13th overall in the 32 car field.
Things got off to a good start for both of the SRT Viper race teams with the #91 Viper piloted by Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens being the 4th quickest car in the class while the #93 Viper driven by Jonathon Bomarito and Kumo Wittmer being the 5th fastest GT car. Things improved as the teams took to the track for qualifying with the #93 Viper claiming the top starting position for the GT class while the #91 Viper was the 3rd quickest car in qualifying – giving the Viper teams their best combined start since rejoining the American LeMans Series last year.
A strong qualifying effort combined with being among the quickest cars in the GT class gave SRT fans a reason to be excited for Sunday’s race and for the first time since the teams rejoined the ALMS last season – the Viper GTS-R teams lived up to the pre-race excitement.
Early on in the race, the #93 Viper GTS-R being driven by Jonathon Bomarito was the dominant car in the GT class. After starting in the front of the class, Bomarito held onto the lead for the first 44 laps but when the #93 car was slapped with a 30 second stop and go penalty for speeding on pit row – Bomarito and Wittmer were forced to fight through the field. Fortunately, these two drivers showed just how great the new Viper GTS-R can be and they were able to salvage a 3rd place finish. This is the best class finish for the #93 team this season and I only say that the “salvaged” the podium finish because of their early domination. Based on how the race went, it could have been tough for anyone in the GT class to catch them.
On the other hand, things went very smoothly for the #91 SRT Viper GTS-R driven by Marc Goossens and Dominik Farnbacher. Without the penalty imposed on the #93 car, Goossens and Farnbacher were around the front of the field throughout the entire 2 hour and 45 minute race and as the event drew to a close, Dominik Farnbacher was locked in a battle for the lead with Tommy Milner in the #4 Chevrolet Corvette C6R. During the last lap, the Viper and the Corvette went wheel to wheel – with the Viper edging ahead at some points – but Farnbacher was not able to secure the lead as the two crossed the finish line. Milner and the bright yellow Corvette beat Farnbacher’s Viper by just 0.267 seconds.
“I know Tommy (Milner) very well and he’s very fair,” said Farnbacher. “I raced him pretty much the whole race. He’s very fair. He never ran into trouble with other cars and he never made a mistake. I think we lost it on the in-lap (lap before pit stop). Marc (Goossens) got blocked for a whole lap by a slower car. So we lost very important ground to the Corvette and then we pitted. The Corvette had a clear lap, stayed out a lap longer. Then they came in, had a clear shot and came out right ahead of us.”
While it is great news for Mopar racing fans that the Vipers posted their best combined finish since returning to the world of endurance racing, the bigger story here is that the race in Ontario showed that these cars ARE competitive with the rest of the GT class. We have speculated all along that it was a matter of experience for the drivers – both in the car in general and on the track – and last weekend’s 2-3 finish showed that this modern SRT Viper GTS-R is capable of winning in the American LeMans Series.