Team SRT's American ace Jonathan Bomarito assesses the season so far and explains why he thinks the Viper GTS-R should be the car to have at this weekend's ALMS race at Circuit of The Americas
I think Team SRT has had a fairly stellar year so far, considering 1) this is the Viper GTS-R's first complete season and 2) the tough competition in the American Le Mans Series GT field. But I've got to say, I'm not that surprised. The Viper is made for this kind of racing, and that's become apparent more and more as the year's gone on.
Actually, the first time that hits you is in the first test with your co-driver. I came from a background of open-wheel racing, where you tune your car specifically for your requirements: it's not something you have to share with others so every change you make is to suit you. Well, in sports cars, you can't be that selfish, because you've got someone else to think about – your co-driver. But Kuno Wittmer and myself find it quite easy to get the Viper to the point where we're both happy with it, and no compromises are needed, and that's a tribute to the car, I think. When we get out, we're always asking for the same thing, and that's despite us and the car being new to the series. That means our message to the engineers is consistent, and that's got to be helpful.
I got involved with the SRT Viper program at the tail-end of last year, driving at Petit Le Mans, and the progress through the off-season was just great. Yes, the team was very new, the car was very new, and SRT racing at this level was something that hadn't been done for over a decade. But we had the right people involved throughout, and the result of their hard work was tangible; I could see it and feel it every time we went testing.
So while there may have been those outside the team who didn't predict our progress, we as a team actually did expect a lot of ourselves, and I think two of the cool things in 2013 have been justifying our self belief and surprising the opposition! Three poles and a victory shows we have pace, durability, good tactics, and smooth pit work.
I'm pleased that Team SRT has had poles at both a rough street circuit (Long Beach) and then also smoother, natural road courses like Mosport and Road America; but there's no magic to racing, no substitute for hard work, and no two tracks are identical. We're reminded of that all the time. Just because, for example, we were quick at Long Beach didn't mean that we were going to be fastest at Baltimore, which has more low-speed corners and hairpins.
Our greatest strengths so far have been the Viper's pace and stability on medium- to high-speed turns. But the way I look at is that we actually learn more from the difficult weekends, so after a so-so weekend in Baltimore, Team SRT and Riley Technologies now have yet more info to work with. Our gains in experience from event to event have to be greater than any of the more established teams.
Transferring the huge amount of torque from the eight-liter V10 to the road is a challenge for the traction control system. The car can spin its rears in first gear of course, but also second and even third sometimes …but there's not a driver out there who'd complain about having too much torque! Therefore, fine-tuning that traction control system and matching it with the gear ratios is always going to be our preferred answer. What you want for qualifying is not necessarily what you want for the race. In qualifying, for instance, you want to work the tires hard to get them up to temperature, and fuel economy doesn't matter. On race day, you want to be more economical in terms of both gas mileage and tire life.