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SRT Keys to Success: Road America

Interview with SRT Motorsports’ Bill Riley heading into Road America…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Fresh off their first victory of 2014, SRT Motorsports now visits the site of their first win, Wisconsin’s Road America, for the Road Race Showcase on Sunday with momentum in hand.

The No. 93 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R with drivers Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer captured a victory in the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, the most-recent TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race, capping a strong recent run for the two-car Viper program.

Over the last three races, the Vipers have tallied one win, one pole position and five podium finishes.

The team now visits Road America, where they captured their first win in 2013 when Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens took the checkered flag in the No. 91 Viper.

The victory was the first for the current Viper program that began with a partial schedule in 2012, and it also marked the first major sports car victory for Viper since 2000.

In addition to their victory at Road America last year, Bomarito took the pole position for the Wisconsin race, marking his second-consecutive pole win at the time.

Should a late-race caution not have fallen in the 2013 race, the No. 93 Viper with Bomarito and Wittmer likely would have won the event, as they were the only car utilizing a different fuel strategy.

Bill Riley, lead engineer, No. 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R

How exciting was it to capture your first win at Road America in 2013?

“For the program, it validated what we were doing in my eyes. We got the win and that just kind of made the program go. It’s a shame we had to wait so long for another win like we got in the last race in Indy, but we’ve been competitive since Road American until now. That’s a pretty big accomplishment in this class.”

What made the team so strong at Road America in 2013?

“I think the track just kind of suits us with the high-speed corners and the high downforce. The Viper is just suited for this track. We had a tough time in 2012, but last year we came back strong.”

Why did the No. 93 Viper opt to use a different fuel strategy in the 2013 race?

“I can’t recall the exact play out of the race, but I just think where the yellow flags fell, and with what he had to do to fix some crash damage on the 91, they just ended up on different strategies.”

Is Road America considered a high-speed track and does that benefit the Viper?

“It’s a high-speed track. It has high-speed sweepers and high-speed corners and that plays into the Viper. I don’t think the top speed plays into it as much. The handling is where we get people and you have to have good handling here.”

What do you need from your setup to be successful at Road America?

“It’s not that far off from our baseline. I don’t think there’s anything tricky about this track. It has a little bit more understeer than most tracks because a lot of the corners fall away, but it’s nothing too tricky that’s unique to here. You do have to make it so you can run the curbs.”

What is the racing like at Road America?

“Obviously, there’s a lot of passing going into turn five. It’s really the main place to pass. In the first-five laps there’s going to be a lot of moving around.

“As the PC drivers get up to speed and the GTLM cars come through the field, that’s where there will be the most action and the most area for risk. Every situation is different and you just have to be a bit braver than the guy next to you. That’s what you have to do.”

Why is Road America considered a European-style track?

“It’s probably more of a classic European track because it flows and follows the terrain and the land more and it has some character to it. I think a lot of the tracks these days they’ve put in chicanes and this and that, while this track is still the same layout it always has been, and I think that’s what makes it a classic track.

“It was a great layout when it was first done and it still is how many years later? It’s an old track – it was built in 1965, so it’s coming up on 50 years. I always love coming up to this area of the country.”

What do you need to be successful at Road America?

“No mistakes. That’s what you have to have in this kind of racing. You can’t have any mistakes. You can’t have issues. The car has to handle well, so you have to execute.”

How do you feel approaching the final stretch of the season?

“Momentum is behind us. With the way the 93 car – well both Vipers – have performed over the last few races, the momentum is with us. And now we’ve moved up to second in the championship, so there’s just one car out there we need to finish in front of.”

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