Here’s a video about one of the most iconic GT race cars ever built: the Viper GTS-R. I tried to put together all the clips and scenes I stored in these recent years, during which, thanks to the introduction of some new historic championships (Endurance Racing Legends and Masters Endurance Legends), these old glories are having a second life. But I honestly tought to have slightly more material… I have to do better next time I see them.
The GTS-R was born because Dodge wished to showcase the potential capabilities of the new car, mostly in the realm of handling. At the same time, Dodge also hoped to increase sales in Europe where importation of the Viper had struggled. Dodge’s parent, Chrysler, therefore approved the development of a racing program centering on the Viper GTS which was still in development at the time. Chrysler believed that in order to adapt their car not only for North American but also European circuits, they would require outside assistance. In 1995 the development of the car started in partnership with French company Oreca, which would build and maintain the cars, and British company Reynard Motorsport, which was in charge of building the chassis and other integral parts before they were shipped to Oreca for assembly. The Viper GTS-R was built under the GT1/GTS-1 class rules in order to be raced in both the FIA-GT and the North American IMSA GT championships. Oreca was chosen to run Chrysler’s official factory teams in Europe. For North America, Chrysler would recruit the Canaska/Southwind Team as their factory effort.
As soon as its racing career started in 1996, Chrysler understood that the GT1-class wasn’t suitable for the GTS-R due to the presence of GT monsters such as the Porsche 911 GT1, McLaren F1 and later the upcoming Mercedes CLK, etc. Instead the Viper would make a perfect GT2 contender and as a first step the class victory at Le Mans was a more reasonable project.
Starting from the GT1 basis, Oreca and Mopar Performance spent the winter of 1996/97 re-engineering the car to GT2 specifications and developing a proper racing engine with Caldwell. As a result the Viper won the FIA GT2 championship out pacing the Porsches, the absolute reference in GT for decades, but failed at Le Mans. For 1998 the GTS-R saw considerable development with a lighter chassis, better aero, much improved suspension and a more reliable engine. For the 1998 and 1999 seasons, Oreca Vipers had no real opposition and largely dominated the FIA-GT, Le Mans and ALMS. 2000 would be the last year of Oreca as a factory team, this final season seeing intense battles with the all new and more advanced Corvette C5R built upon new regulations.
In 2001 the regulations changed as the GT world saw the advent of the new GT1 category. The Viper still had considerable potential and was upgraded with improved specifications and developed by the private teams. In an ultimate effort, Oreca developed in 2003 a new GT1 package for the Viper (cars with larger rear wings in this video are, in theory, GT1s).
Although the production cars have mostly been known as Dodge Vipers, the Dodge brand did not sell the Viper in Europe. Because the new cars, named GTS-R, were built in Europe, they were mostly known as Chrysler Viper GTS-R. However cars racing in North America usually ran under the Dodge banner, making them Dodge Viper GTS-Rs. This naming difference therefore depends on location and region. The cars themselves actually carried no badging for either Chrysler or Dodge, with only the Viper GTS-R name appearing on the side of the bonnet.
The Viper is powered by a 8.0-litre V10 engine which was able to produce 620hp at 6,500 rpm and 800 Nm of torque and linked to a 6 speed manual gearbox.