How much testing have you guys done since Petit last year and how much do you have scheduled between now and the 12 Hours?
KW: “Since Petit last year, on-track testing, we did a two-day test here in January. This is our second test since Petit and that'll be all for testing before the 12 Hours.”
TK: “There are some major refinements on the car. They want to get 'em apart. When I saw the car for the first time, every single part of it was so beautiful. With Riley's experience, their first stab at it was pretty good but after those first four races, they had some areas they wanted to work on where you could maybe get some weight out or do this, that and the other. So, the time spent from Petit to that test was doing some of that stuff that takes time. When I showed up at Daytona at the Daytona test, the Roar, we've been on kind of an information block. We showed up here and kind of got the download on a lot of different stuff. They've had their heads down there in Mooresville. It wasn't like a huge leap forward but a little bit better in three or four areas, for sure.”
Kuno has been talking about his conditioning program. What have you been doing over the last few months and particularly the last few weeks to prepare for this?
TK: “Well, for me, in addition to overall conditioning, I'm still trying to lose weight. It's mostly cycling, swimming and a little bit of yoga but mostly cycling and swimming; just reps, sometimes twice a day, morning and night just trying to get as many reps in as I can is the main thing.”
You have had quite a bit of experience with the Riley guys. How has working with them helped you transition back into this?
TK: “Bill (Riley) is a kind of calm influence, no matter what's going on. One example, we were having an issue with alternators and he was like a 24-hour kind of field general. He didn't want to cut into our time and have the car go down to address the issues. He immediately came up with a plan. He sent people back to the shop, got as many batteries as they could and we were just changing out batteries every half hour, 40 minutes or so to keep us going.
“And then another thing will crop up and there's just calmness about him. There's very little that he hasn't seen. If the head (of the organization) gets excited, everybody gets excited, everybody kind of gets excited and agitated. If he's calm, that tends to permeate the organization. So, that's been nice.
“And then, the other thing, it's because everyone on the team is pretty experienced. In my mind, it's not if we are going to be fighting for race wins but when. The bar here is so high. The Corvette guys, I know a lot of those guys very well and I know how hard they work, how talented they are, I know what kind of resources they have – but I feel like we have every bit as much of that. So, that is kind of the nice thing. You just got to grind it out. I didn't necessarily like that part of the sport before. I just wanted to get to the end of the race and say, ‘Did we win?' And now, I'm actually enjoying that part of it, working together as a team.
“One thing different for me is it's been a long time, all the Trans-Am stuff was single driver, single car. Every time the car ran a lap, you were behind the wheel. Every change you made, you could personalize it to a greater degree. You also got more time in the car. That's been one thing that's taking some getting used to but they do a good job of cycling everybody through. That's been a big adjustment for me in terms of what's happened since you got out of the car last and what kind of compromises you have to make so that everybody is comfortable.”
How is the Viper compared to other racecars you've been in – easier, more difficult to drive, more taxing physically?
KW: “The biggest change with the Viper is definitely the big motor up front which generates a lot of heat inside the car. You know, fortunately, in this championship we get to run AC (air conditioning) systems but in other championships, you don't. That's probably the biggest thing, because of all the heat. You definitely overheat quicker than any other car which has the motor in the middle or the back.
“Definitely, compared to other GT cars that I've driven, the car is in my opinion less physically taxing and it's more comfortable to drive. I'm not going to say easier to drive because that's not a proper word in this type of sport, but it's definitely driver-friendly as far as how many downshifts you do, how many upshifts you do compared to other cars, where you wind the motor up a lot more. So using up a lot of that bottom-end torque is very nice, actually.”
SRT Motorsports drivers Tommy Kendall and Kuno Wittmer meet the media media during the American Le Mans Series' Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway to talk about the prospects for the year ahead with the SRT Motorsports team's SRT Viper GTS-R.