By Patrick Rall
After 53 weeks of practice on tracks around the world, the new SRT Viper GTS-R race program scored its first win with Marc Goossens and Dominik Farnbacher taking the top spot in the American LeMans Series GT Class at Road America. Before this weekend’s win at the Orion Energy Systems 245, the previous best finish (in class) for any modern Viper race car was a second by the #91 team – which came just a few weeks earlier at the Mobil 1 Sports Car Grand Prix in Canada.
The racing weekend in Wisconsin got started off very well for the SRT Viper teams when the #93 Viper GTS-R piloted by Kumo Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito posted the best qualifying time in the GT Class by almost a full second. Things didn’t go quite so smoothly for the #91 Viper but with a starting position of 5th place – the Viper piloted by Farnbacher and Goossens put themselves towards the front of the GT Class for the start.
In the early going, Jonathan Bomarito held the GT Class lead in the #93 Viper and this car would spend much of the day around the front of the field. More importantly, the #91 Viper driven by Dominik Farnbacher quickly climbed to the front of the field, occasionally trading places with Bomarito for the lead. As the day went on, the #93 car drifted back in the field a bit but the #91 Viper remained towards the front…with Marc Goossens making a pass around the #3 Corvette ZR1 for the lead with about a half an hour left that would give the #91 Viper the lead. Goossens would not give up this lead as with just a few minutes left in the race, the yellow flags came out and it was decided that the race would end under caution with the field locked in their current positions. That decision by the ALMS officials effectively gave the win to the #91 Viper; all that Goossens had to do was cruise around the track a couple more times to win the race.
The problem was that earlier in the race, many of the top GT Class drivers had taken a pit stop strategy that would put them in a situation to be very, very low on fuel late in the race. This included the $91 Viper, both Corvette teams and the top two Porsche teams (#06, #48). In fact, the #91 team was planning to dive into the pits (this giving up the lead) on the very same lap in which the caution flags waived. Fortunately, the low speed caution laps allowed Goossens, the two Corvettes and the two Porsches to conserve enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag.
Had that caution not come out, there was a good chance that all of the top five cars (including the #91 Viper) would have either run out of gas or been forced to pit. Had that been the case, the highest positioned car that had enough fuel to make it to the end was the #93 Viper driven by Kumo Wittmer. In other words, had the race stayed green, there would have likely still been a Viper taking home the win at Road America.
This successful race weekend comes just one week after the SRT Viper GTS-R program had its best weekend ever – finishing 2nd and 3rd at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. With this first win coming just a year and a week after the SRT Viper GTS-R made its racing debut in 2012, it appears as though the experience gained through the hard first season for the Viper drivers has paid off as right now, the Vipers and their drivers are among the fastest in the GT Class.