As I rolled into the parking lot at the Circuit of the Americas, just outside of Austin, Texas, the first thing I noticed was a lot jammed full of Vipers. Owners of the ultimate Mopar had come out in force to support the SRT Motorsports squad as they prepared to challenge their arch rivals from the Corvette camp for the lead of the GT Le Mans class of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
Going into this event, which is the second last race of the year, the #3 Corvette held a six-point lead over the #93 Viper of Montreal driver Kuno Wittmer and his teammate Jonathan Bomarito.
Bomarito ran well enough in Friday qualifying that, when the #910 Porsche failed post session tech, the scarlet Viper inherited the first spot on the grid. Wittmer, who is also a lead test driver for the SRT brand’s production vehicle development, would start from pole on Saturday morning.
All weekend, under threatening skies, teams had to deal with intense heat and near 100 percent humidity, which often turned to rain on parts of the circuit. Saturday’s race was no different. At the midway point of the race, I was shooting at turn 11 in muted sunshine, the furthest point away from the front straight on the 5.5-km circuit when the announcers said something about the wet track. Five minutes later, the rain made its way to the opposite end of the massive property and it wasn’t long before a full-course caution came out. As quickly as the rain appeared, it left and the battle on track continued.
The #93 led the opening laps, with the Porsche applying heavy pressure until Wittmer ran wide in one corner, allowing the German machine to pass. The Canadian then let Dominik Farnbacher pass to take the battle to the Porsche in the #91 car. The Vipers remained in 2nd and 3rd positions, right on the tail of the Porsche until twenty minutes from the finish, when that car suffered a mechanical failure, promoting the Vipers to the first two positions.
SRT at Lone Star Le Mans, GTLM #93 Viper GTS-R Bomarito & Wittmer, GTLM #91 Viper GTS-R Farnbacher & Goosens. Click image to enlarge
IMSA – Lone Star Le Mans
Consistency is everything in endurance racing and the SRT team nailed every aspect of the weekend, from flawless pit stops to fast and reliable race cars. The team’s efforts were rewarded with the top two spots on the podium with the #93 of Wittmer and Bomarito taking the win, their second win of the season.
These results move Wittmer/Bomarito into the series lead, 7 points ahead of the #910 and puts SRT in a tie with Porsche for the manufacturer’s title.
The final and deciding race of 2014, the ever-popular Petit Le Mans, runs from October 2-4 at Road Atlanta.