Vipers flex muscle early in eace; Untimely cautions disrupts team strategy
It wasn’t because the SRT Viper GTS-Rs didn’t have the speed to run at the front. Instead, the culprit turned out to be untimely cautions which played prominently in the finish order and definitely negated team strategy.
Both SRT Viper GTS-Rs led in the race. The No. 93 Pennzoil Ultra SRT Viper GTS-R, driven by Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito, led 18 laps early in the race and competed in the top five throughout the first half of the two-hour, 45-minute timed event. The No. 91 Rush SRT Viper GTS-R, piloted by Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens, also had a turn at the front of the GT Class field.
At the checkered flag, the No. 91 finished seventh and the No. 93 was ninth.
“It (the finish) was disappointing for us,” said Russ Ruedisueli, director of Motorsports Engineering Group, Chrysler. “The cars were fast and the drivers really did a good job.
We’re knocking right at the door. The team is continuing to work better together and it’s all gelling. People sometimes forget we’ve only been together a little more than a year and to see the progress the team’s made is just fantastic. I’m really, really proud of the team. We’ll keep working on it.”
Chances for a strong finish were enhanced when the teams opted for different pit strategies, remembering the result earlier this year at Road America when similar tactics produced a win for the No. 91.
“We split the strategy again on the cautions,” said SRT Motorsports Racing Manager Gary Johnson. “It kind of worked in our favor. We ended up coming out in the lead after the first one. I think the strategy was right but the late cautions changed everything.”
When the first caution appeared on Lap 10, the No.91 made a stop for tires, fuel and a driver change with Goossens replacing Farnbacher who, after starting sixth, had powered his way all the way up to second. Meanwhile, the No. 93 stayed out as the leader and held the top spot until Lap 34 when Wittmer gave way to Bomarito during a stop for tires and fuel.
“For a starting stint that’s probably the best one, from fifth to first,” said Wittmer. “The car was really, really good in the beginning. It proves that the Pennzoil Ultra Viper is very competitive and the whole SRT team is very capable of putting together a very good car.”
The second caution appeared on Lap 45 at the 90 minute mark with the No. 93 running second and the No. 91 fourth. That’s when the race changed for SRT Motorsports. It put all teams back on the same pit cycle. The No. 93 managed to run as high as fifth over the final third of the race while a stop-and-go penalty cost the No. 91 two spots in track position.
“My teammate (Farnbacher) had an awesome start, putting the car in P2,” said Goossens. “We gambled on having an early driver change. The race didn’t go our way with the yellows. Our car was a handful to drive but more consistent than what we had in all the practice sessions. We made quite a big setup change prior to the race, kind of into the unknown. I think it was a good decision. For some reason, we kept killing the rear tires much too soon. We got the maximum out of the race. I was pushing it as hard as I could. That’s all that was in the car.
“Unfortunately we had a wheel nut that we lost on one of the pit stops and had a stop-and-go penalty. A lot of things didn’t go our way but all-in-all I think we had a consistent pace. I think it’s another one of these races where we can go away and say hey, we were very competitive. I think there’s only one objective left and that’s to win that race in Atlanta.”
The No. 93, trying to gain positions in the closing laps, ended up off course and wasn’t able to take the checkered flag.
“It was a hard race; everybody was racing really hard,” said Bomarito. “Everybody on the team did a great job. The last 20 minutes of the race, the hood was lifting and I could see it. It was making the front fly in the esses, making more understeer and it got to the point where it just buckled and I couldn’t see anything.
“I think we were running second but we lost some spots somewhere in the pit stop or strategy, I’m not sure. After that second restart, I think we were starting sixth and we still had a good car. We did everything we needed to do to be there at the end, just unfortunate with the hood.”
Luck is definitely a factor in racing. “This was a race where we had a bit of bad luck but that sometimes happens,” said Farnbacher. “It was an unlucky race for us but now we are looking forward to the last race of the season and try to have a good finish there.”
American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron
Oak Tree Grand Prix of VIR
Virginia International Raceway / Alton, Va.
Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
1. No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia (Olivier Beretta, Matteo Malucelli)
2. No. 06 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Colin Braun, Patrick Long)
3. No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia)
4. No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE (Joey Hand, Dirk Muller)
5. No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE (Bill Auberlen, Maxime Martin)
6. No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 (Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin)
7. No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R (Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens)
8. No. 17 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers)
9. No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R (Kuno Wittmer, Jonathan Bomarito)
10. No. 23 Ferrari F458 Italia (Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell)
11. No. 48 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Bryce Miller, Marco Holzer)
March 13-16, 2013 – Sebring, Florida – 12 hour race
April 19-20, 2013 – Long Beach, California – 2 hour race
May 9-11, 2013 – Monterey, California – 4 hour race
June 22-23, 2013 – Le Mans 24 hours, Le Mans, France – 24 hour race
July 5-6, 2013 – Lime Rock, Connecticut – 2 hour 45min race
July 19-20, 2013 – CTMP, Bowmanville, Ontario – 2 hour 45min race
Aug 9-11, 2013 – Road America, Wisconsin – 2 hour 45min race
Aug 30-31, 2013 – Baltimore GP, Maryland – 2 hour race
Sept 19-21, 2013 – Austin, Texas – 2 hour 45min race
Oct 3-5, 2013 – Alton, Virginia – 4 hour race
Oct 16-19, 2013 – Petit Le Mans, Braselton, Georgia – 10 hour race