While the new model features key racing DNA from its GTS-R sibling, it also incorporates aspects from the production Viper that the GTLM-class car does not.
“The GT3-R uses the same body molds, the same basic aero platform,” Riley explains. “It's tuned up a bit from GTE because the rules are a bit more open, so it has a bigger rear wing and some different underbody treatments for some more downforce.
“The suspension is very similar but the damper is a bit more affordable than what we use in the GTS-R program, and the driveline is completely different. Where the GTS-R uses an engine that's tuned for sonic restrictors, and an X-Trac magnesium-case transaxle, with the GT3-R we have a more production-based engine tuned by aero, with a different fuel-metering system; and we use an X-Trac 6-speed sequential transmission that's bolted onto the back of the engine, rather than a transaxle. Then at the rear of the car, it uses a stock differential housing from the Viper, with a different differential manufactured by EMCO.”
Riley says accommodating the evolving USCC regulations has been relatively easy so far: “The GT3 rules are fairly open; it's less restrictive than the GTE rules, so we're able to base the car off both the GTS-R and the stock Viper. We had a fairly good game plan going into it of what we wanted to do. There are some differences but they're not big rules-wise. And Gary Johnson from SRT has been going to a lot of the rules meetings keeping up on the latest lines of thinking and which way we need to go to get the car to conform to the new rules that are coming.”
Still, the inevitable uncertainties have his co-team manager keeping his feet on the ground about the team's prospects out of the gate.
“It's hard to have much expectation about our success just because the BoP (Balance of Performance adjustments by USCC) is going to be all over the board,” Keating says. “It's going to be impossible to really get the cars competitive from a BoP standpoint – and our first two races are the biggest races of the year, a 24-hour and a 12-hour – so it's going to be hard to tell what's up. But by the end of the year I'm confident we'll get the BoP dialed in – there'll be some tracks that will favor our car and some that favor a Porsche, Ferrari or whatever.”
On the other hand, Keating is brimming with confidence that he's positioned to maximize the car's potential, as endurance racing veteran Jeroen Bleekemolen (LEFT) has been named primary co-driver for the team.
“Most people don't know that one of the first championships Jeroen ever won was in a GTS-R Viper in FIA GT [with ORECA in 2001 –Ed.], so he's got experience racing the Viper, “ Keating notes. “I was looking for successful endurance racers with front-engined experience.”
Bleekemolen certainly fits that bill – the Dutchman won the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this year and was on the winning team the past two years in the GT3 class at the 24 Hours of Dubai with a Mercedes SLS. He also literally fits in: “We're about the same size, which helps in this particular car,” Keating adds.
Keating also expects his own driving to gain both by his association with Bleekemolen, and by his return to a more familiar car.
“It always helps,” he says of pairing up with a pro ace. “This [ALMS season] is my first time racing a Porsche, and I've definitely gotten quicker as the year's gone on. I do expect that I'll be quicker in a Viper, just because that's what all my experience has been in. The areas where I'm slower in the Porsche, it's because I'm trying to drive it like it's a Viper! The areas where [co-driver] Damien [Faulkner] has been faster than me, it's where if you did that in a Viper, you'd be spun around in a heartbeat! So I expect to be up to pace a little better.
“It's unrealistic I think for me to be up to Jeroen's pace, because he's doing it every weekend and he's one of the best there is. But that's one of the reasons I'm so excited about the structure of the class. My role is to win the race among the silver drivers and then to hand over to Jeroen to go and finish it off. It's a great storyline for me with my experience, being Viper Cup champion the last two years and also for being a Viper dealer. Everything's a perfect fit.”
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