The competition history of the Dodge Viper is likely one that any automaker would be proud of, boasting three consecutive wins in the GT class at Le Mans in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Now, in an apparent move to revive the Viper name in sports car racing, Autosport reports that Chrysler is evaluating a return to international GT competition with the next-gen Viper, due in 2013.
According to Autosport, Chrysler has picked Riley Technologies, which currently builds the most successful chassis in the Daytona Prototype class of the Grand-Am Rolex Series, to assess the racing value of the new Viper production car.
"We are investigating some things and seeing what is out there, although no decision has been made yet,” Gary Johnson, Chrysler’s motorsports manager, told Autosport in a recent interview. “We have to be very careful about what we do," Johnson continued, likely referring to the rather large shoes a next-gen Viper race car would have to fill – those of the Viper GTS-R.
Making its competition debut in 1996, the Viper GTS-R was a race-bred coupe chiseled out of the then-roadster-only body of the Dodge Viper RT/10 by Chrysler’s own engineers with the help of French racing team Oreca. Campaigned under the Chrysler brand in Europe, the Viper GTS-R quickly earned the American brand respect on the track. The Viper GTS-R took home its first GT class win at Le Mans in 1998, but one of its biggest claims to fame was its triumph over then-new works team Corvette Racing and its Corvette C5.R race cars at the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans.
After the GTS-R was retired, the Viper continued its participation in sports car racing both professionally and on the amateur level with the Viper Competition Coupe and later ACR-X, but didn’t achieve the same international recognition the model enjoyed in previous years.
If a new Viper race car were to enter the sports car racing fray in a few years, it would have to contend with some serious competition from the likes of Chevy, Ferrari, Porsche and BMW in the newly revised GTE class. The game has changed significantly since Chrysler last tasted victory at Le Mans, and if the company wants to see that kind of success again, it will likely want to take its time with the development of its next racer.