Last weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship tests at Daytona and Sebring marked the public on-track debut of SRT’s new customer weapon of choice, the Viper GT3-R.
Following a roll-out at Carolina Motorsports Park last month, the new GT3-based contender turned its first laps in anger and showed encouraging results, according to Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, who will drive the Riley Motorsports-entered entry in the GT Daytona category next year.
“To run with no major issues, I feel was quite an accomplishment,” Keating told Sportscar365. “Any time you bring out a new car that’s never been run at speed, you have to expect some issue pop up. And we didn’t have anything pop up, which is pretty incredible.”
With the same V10 grunt and a near identical set of bodywork, it’s hard to tell the GT3-R apart from its big brother, the GTS-R, which will continue to run as a two-car factory effort next year in GT Le Mans.
While being based off the GTE car, the new Viper GT3-R features a production-based 8.4-liter engine instead of the race-prepped 8.0-liter, while there’s also differences in the transmission, as well as the GTD class mandated rear wing.
The two types of Vipers, however, share the same chassis, suspension and basic aerodynamics, which has helped accelerate the usually steep learning curve of a new car.
For Bleekemolen, who makes the switch from racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the ALMS for the past four years, the two-time GTC champion has already noticed some big differences between the two platforms.
“In the end, lap time wise, I think it’s going to be pretty close. But it’s just a completely different way of driving,” he said. “Luckily I’ve driven so many different cars, even this year.
“I’ve driven the [Mercedes] SLS, Corvette, V8 Supercar, LMP2… For me it’s not hard to jump in a new car but it’s very different from the Porsche.”
Both Bleekemolen and Keating said they already encouraged by the early pace and balance of the GT3-R. The team evaluated different air restrictors at Sebring, in order to help IMSA with the Balance of Performance process.
“The team is so experienced,” Bleekemolen said. “I was really impressed working with them for the first time. You can see it’s a factory team. I think we should be able to optimize everything on our own.
“I think we should be looking at a really strong season but you have to wait and see how they will balance all these cars. If we get a really bad balance, there’s nothing you can do. It might not be easy to balance them all early on but I think they’ll get it right eventually and then it will be one of the nicest classes to be in, in all of endurance racing.”
While only one car is expected to contest the TUDOR Championship next year, Bill Riley said that an announcement is imminent for its first European customer.
They’ve also received a considerable amount of interest for teams wanting to race the GT3-R in the Pirelli World Challenge, which will permit the car to run in full FIA GT3 spec.
“I think the sales are going to take off a little slow but I think when people start to see the performance and the handling and how long the suspension, engine and driveline can last, because it’s all very durable, we’ll get some pretty good customers,” Riley said.
“It should be a really affordable car to operate. We have such a good reputation on service with our other products. So we should be able to support it quite well.”