Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Most Capable Viper... EVER

ViperSmoke.jpgby Matt Bejnarowicz, Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR Lead Development Engineer

It seems like the buzz is everywhere these days about our new 600 hp, street-legal tour de force, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR.

In this case, I’d say believe the hype. To give you some kind of idea how incredibly powerful the existing Viper SRT10 is, consider the kind of competition we pit it against.

Every couple of years at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, they host a benefit air show for the families of overseas servicemen and women. One of the highlights of this event features a drag race between two incredibly fast machines, a Dodge Viper SRT10 … and a military F-16.

The fact that there’s any contest at all should give the reader pause. An F-16 is powered by enough thrust to achieve an air speed in the Mach 2 range. Even on the tarmac, it’s nothing to scoff at. But hey, we’re always up for a challenge!

We started the ACR program over a year ago with similar military secrecy. Code named, "Project EM50," we had one guiding focus—to make a street-legal Viper as fast as possible on the track. Our goal was to push the envelope of performance in every critical area required of a modern race car: aerodynamics, suspension, brakes, tires and weight reduction.

The project was kept so quiet that engineers in our same office had no knowledge the car was under development. Wind tunnel testing was done during midnight hours, and track test cars were camouflaged in racing trim with numbers and decals.

The first time I drove the test "mule," I knew we had something special on our hands. Even with an engine from the previous-generation Viper SRT10, the prototype had so much potency on the track (courtesy of a tremendous rear-wing spoiler and dynamic dual-fanged splitter up front) that it could keep up with the latest model on the track—and blaze past it through the turns.

Outside the car, the aerodynamic elements (cutting through the air) left behind sounds similar to a jet aircraft, further boosting the team’s excitement.

I’ve now been working with this car at many tracks to fine-tune everything, and I can easily say it’s the most rewarding car I’ve ever driven—and my background is in motorsports!

Ultimately, you’re looking at 1,000 pounds of downforce at 150 mph, which is unprecedented in many ways. Many GT race cars do not have this level of aerodynamic downforce. So for a street car, I think its safe to say Dodge has entered new territory for performance.

I’ve been behind the wheel of a fair amount of high-powered cars, and the downforce this car generates is truly incredible. It’s as if the faster you go through a corner, the more stable it grips the road—it’s almost eerie. Every time I take the Viper SRT10 ACR out on the track, it’s a revelation.

It has so much grip, especially at high speeds, that you could practically drink a cup of coffee and drive it with the other hand at the same time—not that I’d recommend it.

The combined aerodynamics, suspension, brakes and tires complement each other perfectly. All of this performance comes at a price that will pleasantly surprise any sports racing enthusiast. In fact, if you look at the amount of specialized content the ACR package comes with, it’s a pretty fantastic deal for club racers.

So what we’re left with is the ultimate street-legal racer for the weekend warriors out there, those select Viper owners who want to drive to the track and nail the best times for the day. If you want to run all day, have some fun, make some great lap times and then drive your Viper home, this car connects the dots.

For more information on the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR, click here. Track Rats be warned—you’re in for a serious case of automotive envy.

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