Archive for August, 2012

Vipers Take to the Air

Written by editor on . Posted in Uncategorized

It was a few days before spring time when I received an email from a member named Doug Lofting who lives in Madras, Oregon.  It’s worth noting that we are very spread out between Oregon, Southwest Washington, Idaho (and one member in Alaska), so I have yet to meet all the members in our club. I had never met Doug before, and in his email, he invited all of us to a show called the Air and Car Show of the Cascades in Oregon.

In his email, Doug tells me that they will roll out the red carpet for the Viper Club for free, more or less, complete with a VIP tent that has food and drinks included. For some members this would be a longer drive (2 ½ to 3 hour one way for my son and me), so I sent out emails with that in mind and updated our site accordingly, telling all the members to check it out. I told Doug I would be there (despite the heat, which was considerable), and after some feedback, it was to be myself and one other member. Not being particularly picky, I take what I can get.

My son wanted to show the latest purchase our 1997 GTS with one-of-a-kind rims, which was fine by me. There was a big fire burning close to Madras but we were set on going. After seeing more fire spots less than a mile from the highway, I began to wonder whether this was a very good idea. We pressed on and checked in at a very nice hotel, unloading the Viper and less than certain about the days to come.

On Friday we pulled through the gates of the airport, and almost immediately a big guy came running over – Doug, running to put our car in the front, taking care of us like we had been friends for ages. We were in line with beautiful cars, no doubt, but the planes were really something to see. The show started at 4:00 and went until 9:00 at night. Fast planes were doing aerobatics maneuvers, and there were two really famous planes from WWII: a B-25 and a B-17, each of which you can get a flight in for a price, the proceeds of which supported the Air Museum in Arizona. There was also a jet that flew at 640 miles an hour and did stunts too, as if that wasn’t enough. This show continued on the next day, a car show like no other and an air show that was absolutely amazing.

On Saturday morning, the cars rolled in with Doug and myself in place with our Vipers. Lo and behold, Nathan Price and his RT/10, with his grandfather riding shotgun. As a former pilot, his grandfather was thrilled. Nathan, being the great guy he is, arranged for a ride for he and his grandfather in the B-17 flying fortress. As if this all wasn’t enough, Doug came up to us later and asked us if we had heard the announcement over the speakers, which we hadn’t. We had won 1st place our bracket.

Anyone that’s in the area next year should see this event: it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life. My son, Lucky, was ecstatic for both day we were there. He told me it was the best show we had ever been to, bar none, and I had to agree: it was one heck of a great time. With planes flying in from all over for this event, my son and I will attend every year to be a part of this show. Many, many thanks to Doug Lofting and all connected with the show. It truly was the show of the summer.

On Safari in Daytona Beach, Florida

Written by editor on . Posted in 2011, Nov/Dec 2011

When it comes to auto racing, I’ve never been a huge fan.  that was until I experienced the Viper Cup Racing League and Viper Days (NARRA) this last month at the Daytona Speedway.

I’m sure you remember a little blurb in last month’s Viper Magazine about a young man named Dominik Farnbacher. He took a stock Viper ACR and captured back the production car lap record at the Nurburgring….

Well, as President of the VCA Ohio Region I’m always trying to find ways of raising capital so that we can do events throughout the year. I had an idea, so I contacted Dominik Farnbacher to see if he would help us with producing some autographed banners commemorating the record at the Nurburgring. He was happy to help. One thing though, Dominik is in Germany and I’m in Ohio. To solve this problem Dominik invited me to meet him in Daytona for the final 2011 Viper Cup race that he was driving in.

Now it was time for me to play Daktari. I jumped in my Land Rover Defender (actually one cleverly disguised as a Lincoln Town Car) picked up the banners from Sam Goldfarb and headed down to Daytona Beach, Florida to see the Dodge Viper in it’s natural habitat. Some of my VCA Ohio friends Jim and Kathy Stout, David Pintaric, and VCA IN/KY friend Mansen Way were also heading down to Daytona.

I’d never been to a Viper Cup race or a Viper Days (NARRA ) event before. The first thing that was very impressive is that you can go right down and walk through the garages and talk to the drivers and their crews. No formalities. Everyone was singing out of the same hymn book, the Viper hymn book. Husband and wife team Jim and Kathy Stout own Coastal Pet Products Motor Sports. Jim races in the GT1 class, and Kathy races in GT2. They brought both of their Viper Comp Coupes and their Viper ACR-X. David Pintaric brought his SCCA STO Viper Coupe and was pulling some of the fastest lap times at Daytona. Mansen Way was getting his feet wet with his “Frankenstein” Viper. It was originally a convertible, turned coupe, turned race car. Mansen was participating in the Viper Days event in conjunction with the Viper Cup weekend. Jim won the GT1 Championship and Kathy came in 2nd in GT2 for the year. David Pintaric came in 3rd in his race on Saturday. Dominik won Saturday’s Viper Cup Race. He made it look as effortless as his video from the Nurburgring. Ben Keating won the Viper Cup Championship for 2011.

Vipers at Daytona Speedway is like seeing animals run in the wild. Of course most of us see our Vipers at shows or like animals at the zoo.  What these cars are capable of doing in their natural habitat is breathtaking.  And the way these drivers can control these beasts is an art for in and of itself.

So my advice to you is to go to www.narraonline.com and get yourself to a Viper Days (NARRA) or a Viper Club Race in 2012.  You’ll never look at your Viper in the same way again.

It was a GREAT trip.  Dominik signed all the banners and we sold them out in less than 48 hours, and in three short days I developed a whole new appreciation for my Viper.

“I love it when a plan comes together…”

2011 SRT vs VCA Autocross

Written by editor on . Posted in 2011, Nov/Dec 2011

Bench racers. You know the type: guys and gals that sit on a park bench (or these days at their computer keyboards) and discuss who would win a race. They take into consideration the cars and their modifications, and usually the drivers of those cars. Would a 2010 Viper Roadster beat a new Lamborghini around a road course and by how much? How much would driver skill factor into it?

The one thing that the SRT division of Chrysler lacks is bench racers. That is because they are actual racers themselves. Fiercely competitive, even their accountants seem to have SCCA trophies somewhere in their past. These guys aren’t about theoretical races, they want to see how it actually unfolds in the real world on a real course. That is pretty obvious by the products they turn out.

And so that reality unfolds every other year at the Chelsea Proving Grounds just outside Detroit, pitting the VCA against SRT in an Autocross Challenge. The Viper Club of America sends their best-of-the-best autocross drivers as determined in Zone events earlier in the year. These drivers have proven themselves in VCA autocross competitions or sent alternates in their place if they couldn’t make it. If one or two of those people happen to be ringers (similar SCCA trophies on their mantels), then so be it – SRT has won this competition for as long as most can remember. Did we mention that SRT is very, very good?

On October 30th the two groups met at the Proving Grounds to see who would take home the coveted prize for 2011. Marv Spatz would lead Team VCA while Erich Heuschele would be coaching Team SRT. Oh, and there was one added twist: Because there are no Vipers being produced and none available for this year’s challenge, everybody would be competing in Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 development mules.

As predicted, the competition was fierce and the times were amazing. To see SUV’s tearing up the course at full speed was truly a sight to behold. In addition to the Zone winners, the VCA had Bernie Katz and Ben Keating from the Viper Cup Series – Ben would go on to win the Viper Cup Championship a few weeks later at Daytona. SRT had two previous SCCA champions in Erich Heuschele and Chris Winkler, the latter having set the Laguna Seca record in a Viper SRT10 ACR in 2009. All bets were on Marco Diniz from SRT Vehicle Dynamics, as the Jeep SRT8 was his baby – he spent more time developing and driving it than anybody else there. And of course he has his own racing trophies sitting at home as well. Needless to say, there were no bench racers to be found this weekend.

The morning session would finish with the best time coming from Erich, followed by Marco and then Ben. The afternoon would be filled with surprises, not the least of which was Mark Trostle from SRT Design setting the time to beat at 58.006. Even the SRT engineers were amused that a designer would be taking the lead from chassis engineers, etc. While Marco would turn a phenomenal 57.95, he killed a couple cones in the process and penalties increased that time to 59.95. Ben’s morning run of 58.914 would hold the lead for Team VCA, followed by Steve Katz from the New York/CT region and Rich Kautz from the Ohio region (not typos, they almost shared the same last name).

But the day was not over. No, the most competitive of them all would have one last run. Earlier in the year a few foolish detractors thought he won the Viper Celebrity Challenge earlier because his “employees” (including NASCAR and NHRA drivers) sandbagged to let the boss win. No spark from him in the morning session, it was obvious that his employees at SRT wouldn’t sandbag either – he was far back in the pack. Marco in particular was determined to take the top honor for the best time. None had a chance: SRT CEO Ralph Gilles would make one of the last runs of the day and turn a blistering 57.817. No cones hit and a run that all could only watch in awe. In the end all times were averaged and the winner declared: SRT had won yet again with an average time of 59.684 to the VCA’s 60.713 – the closest separation in recent memory.

Of course the best part of the event is the bonding between manufacturer and customer. The folks from SRT get to spend lots of time with Viper owners and learn more about what makes them tick and what makes them buy other SRT products. Viper owners learn just how passionate the manufacturer is about building the very best vehicles in the world. Between Ralph’s jubilation and Marco’s dejection, you know that these guys take winning very, very seriously. As the day ended and dusk settled in, you could still see Marco making a few unofficial “last runs” to set the time he knew he could. The boss still won.