2015 Dodge Viper: On the Track, On the Road, It Should Scare You
July 3, 2015
It was one of those Friday nights. Out for a few drinks and a meal with some co-workers, then an urgent text arrives from my boss. The subject had me dropping cash on the table and grabbing an Uber home as if all of humanity's life depended on it.
The message and ensuing phone call basically said, "I'm sick as a dog and can't make it to the track tomorrow to drive Vipers. Do you want to go?"
There's only one answer.
That answer is, "Yes, thank you."
I battled through thick early morning fog and arrived to a rain-soaked Buttonwillow Raceway. It was a Viper club event and I was a guest of Dodge. Part of the deal was that I'd sit through the beginner school and be placed in that run group on track, and that certainly didn't bother me. Regardless of how much track experience you may have, I still contend that there's something to be learned. Plus, the first sessions were a little treacherous as the surface was still quite damp.
After the first 20-minute session on track, the instructor assigned to me immediately bumped me up into a more advanced run group. As an added bonus, I shared my Viper TA with former racer, broadcaster and hall of famer Tommy Kendall. I'll go ahead and assume he's faster than me.
In every event I've ever driven at Buttonwillow, the track layout included the Bus Stop section at the South end of the track. This right-left-left-right section keeps speeds reasonable heading into the big Riverside turn (if you're running clockwise). For this event, we bypassed the Bus Stop and had a mostly unimpeded run-up into Riverside, despite some instructors cautioning against it.
This wasn't the first time I had been on a racetrack in a Viper, but the amount of respect and restraint you need to show never goes away. It's raw, with an ungodly amount of power and it should scare you. This latest Viper is a bit easier to drive, but I contend it's one of the more difficult to find its limits without endangering yourself. On a track like Buttonwillow, I only went wide-open throttle in a couple of spots. In that state, the Viper covers a lot of ground.
It really does feel like a racecar adapted for the street, not the other way around. I discovered at this event that we would soon get our long-term 2015 Dodge Viper and I was obviously happy about that. I was also cautious, however, as this car is punishing on L.A. roads, has a tiny trunk, is very loud, is difficult to get in and out of, and may present space issues for taller drivers.
I get the distinct impression that I'll be signing out our long-termer more than my more reasonable colleagues, and I'm just fine with that.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 102 Miles