It’s a Cool Day in Texas and Anticipation is Killing Me.

Written by editor on . Posted in Ignition, Spring 2010

I have found an unusual gap in my schedule to fly down to Texas for the day. The goal is to sign off on the new ACR-X prototype at the now-defunct Texas World Speedway. The track is a great private venue to test cars and a favorite among racers looking for a safe, high-speed challenge. At 3 miles a lap, it is the perfect place to see what she will do. As I await my turn, I am watching our Pro driver Kuno Wittmer, a young Canadian who grew up in everything from open-wheel to touring cars. Kuno was putting down some incredible record-setting lap times in the new car. He is testing our brake-lining package and generally shaking it down. As he laps away, I am thinking to myself “What will it feel like?” “Like my car?” “Like the competition coupe I tested a couple of years ago with the bubble gum sticky tires.” “Like a Ferrari Scuderia I had the pleasure to drive last summer?” “The Enzo two summers ago?” OK, I digress …

After some routine system checks, I strap in. First thing I notice is the new Racetech seats, one sits lower in the racecar (helps lower the CG). I feel like a kid who snuck out to drive daddy’s car. Not because I can barely see over the wheel. No, it’s because I am so giddy with anticipation. I guess that’s what great cars like the Vipers are all about. Every time you strap in, you realize you’re about to have an unforgettable day. I push the familiar red start button and she comes alive with an authoritative rumble that resonates unfiltered about the uninsulated stripped-out interior. Haven’t even put it in gear yet and my heart’s already skipping away!

Slowly exiting pit lane, I immediately notice how much stiffer the suspension set-up is, as it virtually reads every ripple on the surface of the Old Texas World Speedway pit lane. After a few laps to warm up the tires, it is time to let it rip. We are running on the Ro-oval at TWS. As old and rundown as it is, it has a fantastic 3-mile long, undulating road course that has a scintillating series of high-speed corners that all link together in such a way that each previous corner can affect the speed through the next. Drivers call tracks like this rhythm tracks. The Viper in ACR-X guise feels like nothing I have ever driven. It is so unbelievably fast, yet so forgiving, stable, perfectly planted and confidence inspiring. The combination of the new super-efficient 2010 wing package and the Spec Michelin full-race slicks generate astonishing physics-defying grip. I kept pushing it lap after lap, shaving a half-second each time around. I simply could not believe the new-found limits of the ACR-X. I approach corners at speed that seemed comically precarious. Your brain is telling you that it is impossible to take this corner flat out, and the car just keeps sticking (In fact, if it wasn’t for Kuno’s lap times being 5 seconds faster than mine, I would not have believed it. For the record, I haven’t been behind the wheel of a race car in over a year … something to do with this day job!). The ACR-X feels like it is wired into your soul like an Avatar’s flying mate! After a few laps the Zone finally came on, and I was beginning to become one with the machine, looking further and further down the track and becoming used to the incredible closing speeds that I have never experienced in a car before. The limits of this car are simply otherworldly. Now I understand why it qualified among the top three out of more than 300 cars in the recent sports-car test at Sebring. The boys at SRT® have created yet another legend. To put it in perspective, the ACR-X (on less grippy tires than are now specified for the series) ran a 1:31:00 flat at Laguna Seca last fall, a full 2 seconds faster than our own world record setter—the ACR 1:33. The Viper, now nearing its 20-year anniversary, still continues to find new depths and impress.

We still have the ability to build an additional 25 ACR-Xs, if the demand should be there in the coming weeks. Even if you don’t plan to race in the series, any true track lover needs one of these in the stable! It will simply run circles around any production-based sports car I can think of. I can’t wait for the first Viper Cup race this July. It should be a blast. In the meantime, I want to thank all of our current owners and dealers who have ordered the 2010s. The entire allocation has been spoken for, and we have fired up Conner Avenue Assembly one more time to build them for you. They will be a challenge, as we have never taken on such a variety of custom builds at one time. We have collectively had to break some rules that we didn’t even know were there! But they should indeed be some very special Snakes for a very special and deserving Viper Nation. So here’s to springtime and to the last true American Supercar.

Ralph Gilles

President and CEO, Dodge Car Brand

Chrysler Group LLC