Salt Snake City

Written by editor on . Posted in Heads Up, Spring 2010

The prospects for VOI.11 looked bleak. Less than a year ago Viper was up for sale and the future of Chrysler Group LLC was clouded, to say the least. Fast forward to the present. Chrysler’s heart is beating strong after the merger with Fiat, there’s a new sheriff in charge of Dodge that just loves the Viper, and—drum roll, please—Viper Owners Invitational 11 (VOI.11) is a go, ready to blast off in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Sept. 30–Oct. 3.

Unique to VOI.11 is the fact that the site was chosen by the VCA board, not the manufacturer. Criteria used by the VCA board to choose the VOI.11 venue included an inexpensive location, a location not previously visited, premier hotels with the ability to accommodate 1,200 Viper fanatics, an excellent track facility and an attractive route for the scenic cruise. The club looked at many options, including new sites such as Chicago, Denver, Seattle, before settling on the final destination. Perhaps the greatest attribute of Salt Lake is the amazing track facility, Miller Motorsports Park (MMP).

“We looked at Salt Lake City,” said National VCA President Chris Marshall. “It wasn’t high on our radar, although it’s been suggested in the past … simply because of the track facility. MMP is one of the most famous tracks in the country. I believe it’s the longest road course in the U.S. at just under four-and-a-half miles long. The gentleman who designed MMP actually said he designed it with Viper specifically in mind, which is why it has a very long straightaway and great sweepers. MMP is absolutely gorgeous, and we have the run of the entire facility for three days.”

The lineup at MMP is action-packed and impressive. Along with the always popular autocross and road course setups, attendees will have access to a full blown go-kart track as well as an off-road course. And for a special treat, Viper owners can also watch the pros compete on the MMP road course in their Viper Competition Coupes. “We have paired up with the folks from World Challenge and SCCA Pro Racing, and they will be having their final race of the season at Miller Motorsports in conjunction with VOI,” Marshall revealed.

Expect Chrysler Group LLC and Dodge to have a sizeable presence at the event. Friend of Viper and new Dodge Car Brand President and CEO, Ralph Gilles, is so dead-set on attending the Salt Lake bash that he plans to fly in to VOI on Saturday from Paris, where he’ll be attending the Paris Auto Show. “As with all VOIs, we expect Chrysler to participate and bring some interesting cars to the event,” added Marshall. “You just never know what they might bring. I’m sure we’ll get to check out a few Fiats.”

Beautiful Park City, Utah, is tentatively scheduled as the route for the scenic cruise. And as in VOIs past, a very special VCA Raffle Car will also be up for grabs. Teases Marshall: “The last raffle car of 2010 will be at VOI.”

As for those members of the Viper Nation who like their drinks a bit on the “spirited” side, feel free to imbibe without restriction. “Salt Lake has come into the mainstream to boost tourism,” said Marshall. “The liquor laws are basically the same as they are anywhere else. For those who would like to enjoy a round of drinks during the evening hours, they will definitely be able to do so any way they want.”

When it comes time to lay down their weary heads, Salt Lake boasts first-rate accommodations for Viper owners. The five-diamond Grand America numbers 775 guest rooms and suites, while sister hotel Little America, located just across the street, contains 850 rooms and 23 suites. The elegant ballroom at Grand America has more than enough size to accommodate the many Viper banquets.

With so much on tap at VOI.11, you might think registration fees will increase. Not so, says Marshall, who hopes the opposite occurs.

“Our goal is to make the event much less expensive for attendees than it has been in the past,” Marshall stated. “Our goal for this particular VOI is to have registration fees under $700.”

World-class facilities, an action-packed slate of activities and four days of fun-filled camaraderie with like-minded Viper enthusiasts, all for $700? If you’re thinking, “Where do I sign up?,” then you’re in luck. Visit www.viperclub.org for more information on the can’t miss Viper party of the year.

Full Speed Ahead for Viper Days

Written by editor on . Posted in Heads Up, Winter 2009

With all the uncertainty surrounding the auto industry today, it’s great to know that the Viper Nation can take comfort in two things: The Viper will continue to be produced for many years to come, and the organization known as Viper Days will not only continue, it will become bigger and better.

Those familiar with the history of the Viper know that Viper Days and the Viper Racing League have been part of the Viper legacy for more than a decade. These series, founded and operated by Skip Thomas, have literally helped thousands of Viper owners satisfy their need for speed, while also teaching them valuable lessons about how to safely handle their vehicles in any kind of driving conditions.

No one knows the value of Viper Days better than those who have participated over the past fourteen years, so a few months ago; several veterans of the series approached Thomas to see if he might be interested in turning the administrative reins of his series over to a new management group. That organization, led by Rick Girard, sought to acquire the rights to Viper Days and the Viper Racing League with plans to grow the series into one of the largest most respected amateur road racing series in the nation.

Rick Girard explained, “All the owners who have participated in Viper Days have the upmost respect for Skip and everything he’s done for us. After 14 years, we want to make sure that the driving and racing opportunities for the Vipers will continue for at least another 14 years. Somebody needed to step up and offer to take the reins, so I did.”

Through Girard and his investment group, Viper Days will become part of a larger enterprise that will encompass not only Vipers, but other makes, as well. They have formed the North American Road Racing Association “NARRA” and will sponsor three different series designed to accommodate every level of driver skill.

The first will be the Michelin Challenge Series, which is geared toward beginner and intermediate drivers. The method by which drivers will compete in this series is “timed laps,” which will judge their progress against others in their class. Second, will be the Hoosier Cup Series, which will feature Grand Touring and Grand Sport vehicles from a variety of different manufacturers. Finally, the Viper Racing League will be reserved for the most experienced drivers, who will race wheel to wheel with each other. To date, 19 Viper Racing League drivers have turned pro and raced many well known series such as the SCCA World Challenge and the Grand Am Rolex Sport Car Series.

Driver education and safety will continue to play a big role in both the Challenge Series and the Viper Racing League, according to Girard. “Skip did a great job of creating a safe environment for us to learn how to handle the most competent road racing car on the track, the Viper.

“Our updated business model will offer a wide variety of track opportunities to a diverse group of automotive connoisseurs, including other brands such as Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, Mustang and Ferrari” Girard continued by saying, “Many people who purchase high performance cars are intimidated by the idea of taking them to the track. Viper Days will give those folks the chance to learn about what their cars are capable of without the fear of deadly consequences.”

Girard hopes that Viper Days will expand its offerings to include events for the entire family. “Our young driver program will be an ideal place for teenage drivers to learn a variety of skills such as; threshold braking, skid control and how to avoid overcorrection in the event of an emergency. We’ll also include other activities such as tailgate parties, car shows, and live auctions—something for everyone.”

Plans call for nine or ten events in 2009. “We’re still working on venues and track dates for next year, so our schedule is not finalized at this time, however, we will be going to some of the most famous tracks in the world, places like Sebring, Mosport and Homestead.”  Girard said.  Please visit www.viperdays.com or www.narraonline.com over the coming weeks to see our 2009 schedule and keep informed on our progress.”

Girard concluded, “This series became too large for one person to handle. Even though our group is taking over where Skip left off, he will remain with our new group as the Grand Marshall of all events. Knowing Skip, I think you’re going to find him wanting to return to his teaching roots. Heck, don’t be surprised if he climbs into your car, turns to you and says ‘Hi, I’m Skip, now let’s go 120.’”