2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10: The Viper's Last "Yee-Ha!" Part 2
October 25, 2010
Our long-term Dodge Viper and I made it safely to the beautiful desert town of Pahrump, Nevada, about a four-hour drive from southern California, ready for the Viper Days event in which I'd be taking part in a Performance Driving School.
Not much to note on the road, other than the fact that the Viper's cupholder is completely useless at holding drinks in place during any kind of spirited acceleration--it's more of a "cupstander" than a holder, as I have yet to find a drink that won't fall out. Also, sixth gear is so tall it's utterly uselessat anything near legal speeds, while any kind of large bump sends the Viper's rear end a-rockin.'
Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch has quickly become a top-notch facility, location notwithstanding. For the Viper Days weekend, we used a 3.1 mile configuration that is without doubt the most technically challenging track I've ever driven. Even the most serious Viper racers said thetrack's combo of high-speed and low-speed sections and multiple super-late apexes was giving them headaches.
Things kicked off with a driver's meeting explaining the day's events, followed by the chance to drive a few laps around the track at street speeds to see the layout. Drifter and rally racer Tanner Foust, who was on hand as a Celebrity Driver in the Viper Cup series, was kind enough to give myself and another journalist a ride around the track in a Dodge Ram. Although Foust had only driven a couple of rainy sessions the day prior in his Viper Cup car, he already seemed to have the track dialed and was extremely giving of useful information regarding line choice, braking points andthe proper gear to be in.
While this was going on, the Dodge race crew was looking over Edmunds' long-term Viper, getting it tech'ed, numbers affixedand tire pressures set. In the process, they determined its clutch is just about done, guessing it wouldn't make it through the weekend. I blame Paul Tracy, as he drove this exact car during the shooting of Battle of the Supercars.
My instructor for the day, the very lively Jim Garrett, an ALMS racer and Viper GTS owner from Austin, Texas, was easy to work with. Unfortunately the first two sessions were kept at a painfully slow pace. The first session because instructors needed to gauge their students competence level; the second session because apparently some people have a hard time with the concept of "point-bys" to let faster folks pass. Frustrating!
Garrett's instruction washelpful, even if his suggested lines didn't always match up with Foust's from earlier in the day. More than anything, it was educational toexperience just how insanely late you can brake in a bone-stock Viper. One other tidbit: While the Viper-loving instructors will be the first to tell you that Dodge's supercar has few peers when it comes toaccelerating,turning and braking, they also admit that part of what makes a Viper so hard to master is that, unlikemany cars, the Viper isn't good at doing anytwo of those things at the same time.
As far as the students: All manner, young to old, men and women, and from varying drivingbackgrounds. But they all seemed to share one common goal: Tame the beast that is a Viper.
The Viper driving school is fairly reasonable cost-wise. A single day costs $300, which includes fouron-track sessions with an instructor as well as three short classroom sessions throughout the day; the two-day event will run you $450. For added fun, drivers can compete in the Challenge Series (a solo, timed format event) once they'vesuccessfully completed the driving school.
And for sure,$300 beats wrapping your Viper around a telephone pole, no?
The Viper coupe ready to go through the tech line. And yes, that's a Panoz two cars behind it; Viper Days isn't exclusiveto Vipers.
Driver's meeting first thing in the morning.
The Edmunds Viper getting its lucky number 27.
Tanner Foust givespointers as to the fast way around Spring Mountain, while driving a Dodge Ram pickup.He said he could takethe scary "Drop" section of the track atfull throttle in his Viper Cup race car.