2003 Chrysler ViperGTS-R
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THE LAST VIPER TO FINISH THE 24H OF LE MANS
In the early 1990s, first generation Dodge Viper RT/10s had been modified by private racing teams for use in GT racing in North America and Europe without much success. Although its V10 engine was powerful, the car was not adapted to racing and teams lacked the funding to build a car that could compete with factory efforts. One key issue was the fact that the Viper was a roadster, therefore lacking the rigidity that a coupe body style would have. However, following the sales success of the first generation Viper, Dodge began redesigning the car in 1995, upgrading the roadster while at the same time adding a new coupe, known as the Viper GTS.
Although the first generation Vipers had sold well, Dodge wished to showcase the potential capabilities of the new car, mostly in the realm of handling. At the same time, Dodge also hoped to increase sales in Europe where importation of the Viper had struggled. Dodge's parent, Chrysler, therefore approved the development of a racing program centering on the Viper GTS which was still in development at the time. This co-development would allow for elements of the racing car to be adapted to the road car, and vice versa, for each car's mutual improvement.
Chrysler believed that in order to adapt their car not only for North American but also European circuits, they would require outside assistance. An agreement was made with the French racing and engineering firm Oreca, who had many years of experience in sports car racing as well as assistance in the Mazda 787B's win in the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans. Oreca would construct and maintain the racing cars in their shops, as well as run Chrysler's official factory teams in Europe. For North America, Chrysler would recruit the Canaska/Southwind Team as their factory effort.
Although Oreca would construct the cars, key elements would come from the British engineering firm Reynard Motorsport. This would mainly consist of the construction of the car's basic chassis and other integral parts before they were shipped to Oreca for assembly. As for the Viper's engine, it was ideally suited for competition at the time due to limits of 8.000cc being just beyond the Viper's 7998.5cc. Modifications were therefore light for the 356-T6 V10 engine, with concentration on redesigned intakes for horsepower and reinforcements for endurance.
In terms of design much of the bodywork of the Viper GTS was retained on the race car. Mandatory elements such as a rear wing, rear diffuser, and front splitter were added for aerodynamics, while initial cars had their fog lights covered over before being put back for increased visibility at night. To aid in lighting, optional lights were able to be placed in square notches above the grill. The exhaust would also be routed out the side of the car, just under the doors, about halfway between the front and rear wheel wells. Side exhausts had been a feature of the first generation American-market RT/10s, but were no longer used on the GTS. Vents were also added to the hood for cooling the engine, while intakes were placed on the roof and rear fenders.
In total, 57 Viper GTS-Rs were be built. After the production of an initial five prototypes for testing and early usage by Oreca and Canaska/Southwind, 52 more cars would be built. Although some would be used by the factory teams, most would be sold directly to customers for use in whatever series would allow them. Viper GTS-Rs continued to be built into 2005, after which Oreca concentrated on maintaining and supporting the existing Viper GTS-R fleet.
In order to meet requirements laid out in the rules of certain racing series that the Viper GTS-Rs planned to run, road cars similar to the race cars would have to be sold to the public. Although the GTS-R was already similar to the GTS, a closer replica was needed to meet homologation requirements. Chrysler commissioned the construction of 100 road cars in 1998 that would use elements of the race car.
Named the Viper GT2 for the GT2 class which the Viper would participate in across Europe, they borrowed the rear wing and front splitter from the GTS-R, as well as dive planes and a deeper fascia. Replicas of the BBS racing wheels would also be used. Power on the production engine would be increased to 460 hp. All 100 cars would feature white paint schemes with dual blue stripes, identical to the scheme used by Oreca.
Debuting in 1996, two racing teams separately developed the Chrysler Viper GTS-R coupe for competition. Canaska Southwind started in the North American IMSA GT Championship GTS-1 class at the 1996 24 Hours of Daytona, managing to finish in 29th place. However, the team would improve with a twelfth place finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Viper Team Oreca would also run a limited schedule beginning with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Both teams appeared at the Le Mans with two entries each. Three of those four cars managed to finish with Canaska Southwind earning the best result in tenth place. The two teams returned to their respective series afterwards. Viper Team Oreca concluded the year with three races in the BPR Global GT Series earning eighth place at Brands Hatch, ninth at Spa, and sixth at Nogaro. Canaska Southwind concluded the season by finishing second in class at Mosport and sixth overall.
The Canaska Southwind team would end their involvement in the Viper program in 1997. This meant Oreca would make the only appearance for a Viper in IMSA GT by submitting a lone entry at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, finishing in 12th place. After Daytona, the team returned to Europe to concentrate on the new FIA GT Championship which had replaced the BPR series. The team would switch to the less powerful GT2 class due to the strength of the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz teams which were entering GT1, while at the same time being joined by the customer Chamberlain Engineering team. Oreca began the season strong with a 1-2 finish in their class ahead of the Roock Racing Porsches, and would go on to take six more victories in the eleven race season and winning the GT2 championship. The team also returned to Le Mans with three cars, although they would only finish in 14th place, fifth in their class. Another customer Viper would also appear in the All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship for Team Taisan, making two appearances with a best finish of eighth.
The Oreca team would strengthen their dominance in FIA GT in 1998, as the team managed to win all but one event in the ten race schedule. Oreca would also take their first class victory at Le Mans with an eleventh place overall finish. Chamberlain continued as a privateer in FIA GT earning several points, as well as earning a 14th-place finish at Daytona. Meanwhile, the Oftedahl Motorsport would purchase a Viper GTS-R and go on to score six class wins in the British GT Championship, including an overall race win at Silverstone and earning Kurt Luby and Richard Dean the drivers' championship.
For 1999, Oreca's efforts were expanded further, as the team now operated in two championships: A two-car team in the new American Le Mans Series and the existing two car team already competing in FIA GT. FIA GT saw the Vipers once again sweep the series with nine wins for Oreca, and a lone win for the Paul Belmondo Viper. Chamberlain improved their team to finish second in the championship, while GLPK Carsport would be the fourth Viper squad to compete. A similar story occurred in the ALMS, with Oreca winning six races and taking that championship as well. Oreca would also earn their second straight win at Le Mans, with various Vipers finishing in the top six positions in their class. The FFSA GT Championship would see the appearance of Belmondo's Vipers, earning two victories over the season, and the 24 Hours Nürburgring would see Zakspeed claiming overall victory.
For 2000, Oreca chose to concentrate on North America, leaving the FIA GT Championship to privateers. The team opened the season with one of their most notable victories, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona by a small margin over the new Chevrolet Corvette factory team. Oreca went on to win ten races in the American Le Mans Series, eventually falling to Corvette in two rounds late in the season but once again securing the championship. Oreca would also outperform Corvette at Le Mans, winning their third straight class victory with a seventh-place finish. In FIA GT, the Paul Belmondo and new Carsport Holland teams would run strong and win a collective four races, but would not be able to overcome the five victories by the Lister Storm, forcing the two teams to settle for second and third in the championship. In French GT, the DDO, ART, and MMI squads would combine for a total of eight Viper victories.
The backing by Chrysler officially ended in 2001, as Chrysler and Oreca had begun work the previous year on developing a Le Mans Prototype, forcing Oreca to abandon their Viper teams. The American Viperacing squad would be the sole contender in the American Le Mans Series, scoring no victories and finishing the season in third for the championship. FIA GT would however see a blossoming of teams, as eight different Viper squads competed over the season. Larbre Compétition would win three events (including the Spa 24 Hours) and win the championship, while Carsport Holland won two races and finished second. Hayles Racing would win four races in British GT to win that championship by two points over Lister, while the DDO team would win five French GT events, and Zakspeed would manage to win the 24 Hours Nürburgring for the second time. Le Mans however would not see the Vipers repeat their past success, as the factory Corvette squad won the class and only a lone Viper finished.
Larbre was able to defend their FIA GT championship in 2002, but were only able to win one race in the process. Carsport Holland and Paul Belmondo also managed single victories, while the new Ferrari 550s showed their potential with four wins. The only other victories for Vipers that season came in French GT, with four earned by DDO, and a third victory at the Nürburgring for Zakspeed.
Specific history on this car:
Chassis GTSR C46 was built by Oreca in 2003 and sold immediately to the highly successful Labre Competition racing team. Labre entered the car during 2003 successfully in the following races:
• 24 hours of Le Mans, #86, Bouchut / Goueslard / Zacchia, 16th overall / 4th in class
• 24 hours of Spa-Francorchamps, #17, Blanchemain / Zonca / Ickx / Kuismanen, DNF (engine problems)
• 1.000 kms of Le Mans, #86, Bouchut / Vosse / Dumez, 8th overall / 3rd in class
After its 2003 season the car was soon sold to the DR Sportequipe for the Italian GT championship. In 2005 C46 again changed hands, this time it was sold to the Tarres Racing team of the French racing driver Marcel Tarres.
They again sold the car to the Swedish racing driver Erik Behrens, Team Alfab, who raced the Viper occasionally with huge success:
• 1.000 kms of Spa- Francorchamps (Le Mans Series) 2006, #16, Behrens / Wallinder, race 1 - 2nd, race 2 - winner
• 24 hours of Zolder 2009, #12, Kuismanen / Huisman / Behrens / Hasenbichler, 3rd overall, 1st in class
In recent years the car was sold to the current owner who raced the car successfully at various German club events. During 2014 chassis C46 was fully restored to the original 2003 specification and is now presented in race prepared condition.
The car now comes with its Swedish log book (vagnbok) from 2010, a German DMSB log book from 2015 and a current Masters technical passport from 2018 as well as an attractive spares package.
This is a rare opportunity to purchase a highly competitive racing legend eligible for the Masters Series as well as the Global Endurance Legends series.