Model history: Launched in 1992, the Dodge Viper was the spiritual successor of the legendary AC Shelby Cobra that had burst onto the scene exactly 30 years earlier. It was therefore hardly surprising that some of the first Viper owners took their cars racing. Recognising the sporting and marketing potential of a properly developed Viper, the factory started an official competition program. Taking no chances, partnerships with Reynard and Oreca were signed for, respectively, the development and construction of the racing cars.
The timing of the program was spot on, as, for the first time since the heyday of the Shelby Cobra, production-based GT racers were taking centre stage again. The field was split in two classes - GT1 and GT2 - with the latter having stricter homologation requirements. Chasing outright victories, a GT1 version of the new Viper GTS coupe was initially developed for the 1996 season. With rivalling manufacturers, most notably Porsche, homologating purpose-built racers as road cars, it really was an uphill battle for the Viper in GT1, so that project was quickly abandoned.
Fortunately, a GT2 specification Viper had also been developed at the same time. In compliance with the tighter GT2 homologation requirements, the new 'GTS-R' was remarkably similar to the road car it was based on. Where allowed modifications were made to the chassis and suspension but most of the work focused on shedding weight and adding safety features like a roll cage. At 7,986 cc, the Viper's all-aluminium V10 had a near perfect displacement considering the 8 litre limit set by the regulations. Engine development focused on reliability and adjusting the intakes and engine management to work with the mandatory restrictors.
Optimisation of the aerodynamics was another key focus area during the GTS-R development. At the front a full-width splitter was fitted while a sizeable wing and diffuser were added to the tail. Further tweaks to the road-going Viper's design were additional lights on the nose, cooling vents and side-mounted exhausts. Although the competition version followed the Viper GTS very closely, some of the aerodynamic changes did require further homologation. To meet these requirements, Dodge built 100 Vipers equipped with a rear wing and a slightly revised nose.
The GT2 specification, the Dodge Viper GTS-R, or Chrysler Viper GTS-R as it was known in Europe, debuted early in 1997. In addition to the factory Oreca team, the Viper was run by a large number of privateer teams. It quickly became the car to beat in the GT2 class. The first season was concluded with the FIA GT Championship trophy in its class. This feat was repeated the following season. In 1998 an Oreca Viper also placed 11th overall and first in class during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
At the start of the 1999 season the regulations were re-shuffled with the existing GT2 regulations being adapted for the GT1 class. For the Viper GTS-R little changed as it continued to dominate, now winning the FIA GT Championship outright, and again in 2001 and 2002. At Le Mans, the V10-engined machine took back-to-back GT1 victories in 1999 and 2000. It was also very successful in the other major endurance races, scoring outright wins in the Daytona 24 Hours and Nürburgring 24 Hours, and class wins at Sebring and in the Petit Le Mans.
In 2001, Chrysler, Oreca and Reynard stepped up to the LMP1 class. The numerous privateers continued to race the Viper GTS-R for many years to come with the final examples produced as late as 2005. By that time, Oreca had produced a staggering 52 Viper GTS-Rs. With class and outright victories in all the major races and championships, the race-bred Viper remains as one of the most successful GT racers of the modern era.
Built ahead of the 1999 season, chassis C21 was one of the Viper Team Oreca cars for the 1999 season. It was briefly raced in Europe including at Silverstone and Le Mans before it was shipped to the United States to compete in the inaugural American Le Mans Series. Repainted red with silver stripes, it scored five consecutive class victories, including wins at Laguna Seca and in the Petit Le Mans. It was subsequently entered in the 2000 Daytona 24 Hours for Olivier Beretta, Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy. Starting from 21st on the grid, they scored a spectacular outright victory. Still wearing its Daytona battle damage, chassis C21 is seen here in the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.
Chassis C23 was part of the Viper Team Oreca squad during the 1999 season. Marc Duez, Tommy Archer and Justin Bell placed it 12th outright and second in class behind a sister car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This Viper GTS-R was subsequently campaigned by Karl Wendlinger and Olivier Beretta in the FIA GT Championship. They drove it to four wins on their way to securing the championship. At the end of the year, it was sold off and various privateer teams campaigned chassis C23 until the end of 2005. It has since been restored to its original livery and was demonstrated by model expert Florent Moulin during the 2008 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Completed in 2000, this Viper GTS-R was one of the Viper Team Oreca factory cars campaigned during that season. It was raced only a handful of times, including appearances in all major North American Endurance races. Chassis C27's best result was a fifth in the Daytona 24 Hours, which was won by one of the team's other Vipers. In 2001 it was used by a specialist company to test racing shock absorbers. Due to its relatively brief racing career, it has survived in a remarkably preserved condition. Dealer and model expert Florent Moulin acquired the car in 2008 and following a cosmetic restoration and a major service, he won the 2009 GT90s historic race at Dijon. Chassis C27 is seen here during the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
One of the final team cars produced, chassis C31 was raced by Viper Team Oreca throughout the 2000 season. In the hands of Karl Wendlinger, Olivier Beretta and Dominique Dupuy, it was driven to the Viper's third and final Le Mans class win. Wendlinger and Beretta also used this Viper to clinch the 2000 'GTS' class championship in the American Le Mans Series. Sold to a privateer team, it was campaigned for another two seasons. Chassis C31 has since been fully restored to its American Le Mans Series winning colours. It is seen here during The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering in 2008.
One of the most successful Viper GTS-Rs produced, this chassis was raced by 'Viper Team Oreca' for most of the 1997 and 1998 season. It made the type's victorious debut during the first FIA GT race of 1997 at the Hockenheimring. Its final race was the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans where Justin Bell, Luca Drudi and David Donohue drove to 11th overall and victory in the GT2 class. Retained by Chrysler, it is seen here during the 2004 Eyes on Design concours d'elegance, still sporting the Le Mans winning colours.