Last year, we were on hand for the world debut of the SRT Viper GTS. This year, SRT threw down the gauntlets again by debuting a new version of the Viper. We were on hand for a special walk-around with SRT Product Planning Manager Steve Sharples and SRT Chief Engineer Russ Ruedisueli to learn how the new Viper TA is more track-focused than ever.
The Viper TA, immediately discernible in its special TA Orange paint, features an all-new aerodynamic package with a carbon fiber front splitter and rear spoiler. The new aero pack is good for more than 300lbs of downforce at track speeds. Under the skin, the Viper TA features a re-tuned version of the GTS’s adjustable suspension, as well as tweaked shocks, springs, and stabilizer bars.
Further benefiting the aero and suspension upgrades, the Viper TA also gets some weight savings; its fitted with the lightest wheel package, the interior leather surfaces have been replaced with cloth and vinyl, and the aluminum X-brace has been replaced with once made of carbon fiber. The result is a 3,332lbs (MotorTrend weight) of track-tuned Viper.
All this tweaking, and the SRT engineers left the 8.4L V10 untouched. You’d think that would be disappointing, but the changes that were made resulted in a Viper that was 2.15 second faster around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Clearly power isn’t everything. The SRT Viper Time Attack earned its nameplate back in February, when it broke the lap record at Laguna Seca with a time of 1:33.62. To commemorate, SRT will build just 33 Viper TAs in the special TA Orange color.
So how did we end up with such a great opportunity? The short answer is social media. The SRT community is one of the most well-organized and active in the industry. They’re fiercely loyal and very active in social media, going so far as to create the #teamSRT hashtag to track SRT-related news. This requires the SRT media team to also be the best in the industry, and they do a great job keeping fans directly involved though Facebook and Twitter. To help celebrate the Viper TA’s release, they invited local SRT enthusiasts to the New York International Auto Show just for this occasion. They also printed 33 special edition Viper TA t-shirts for those that attended. Even Ralph Gilles, CEO of SRT Brand, was on hand to welcome these guests. Now that’s community involvement! It would seem that other manufacturers have a lot to learn, both in engineering a track-focused car and developing community involvement.