Despite allusions to cooperation on the Viper with Chrysler’s new Italian owners, there will be no Viper Ferrari.
Hey, it was a natural question, especially since Dodge opened that door in a press release on Tuesday about a lap record set by a production Viper ACR at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (1:33.915; more on that in a minute).
“When we have partners across the ocean who are known as the best sports-car makers in the world, the future opportunities are huge,” Dodge brand chief Ralph Gilles said in a release.
The future opportunities for what–a Ferrari V12 in a Viper body? A Viper V10 in a Frankensteined 612? What? You could go insane imagining the possibilities. So we spoke to Gilles directly and asked whether there would be any cross-engineering or parts-sharing to the extent our overactive imagination imagined there might be. We asked about a Ferrari Dodge Viper.
“No,” he said in about as definitive a tone as car execs ever get.
Then what did he mean by the “opportunities are huge?”
“They really know sports cars. We just want some advice,” Gilles said.
But wouldn’t a Ferrari Viper be cool, regardless?
“Ferrari is Ferrari, Viper is Viper,” he said. “Please don’t go there.”
We did get these exciting tidbits about the 2010 Dodge Viper: there will be a new graphics package! New stripes! And a new color–Anaconda Green! Also, a new interior for the 2010 Viper will be launched at the Los Angeles auto show.
The 2010 Viper will get a shorter fifth-gear ratio (changing from 0.74 to 0.80) for improved high-speed acceleration and higher straightaway speeds, which hampered an earlier 2008 “lap record” at the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife, where it was found that a revised gear ratio would have resulted in a higher speed capability and potentially a shorter elapsed time. The 2010 Viper also will get a new short-throw shifter, and the rear wing profile and redesigned end plates to allow 4 more mph, topping out at 184 mph.
The latter two improvements sound like Dodge is planning to go back to the Nordschliefe to reset its record there.
“That’s honestly not a big priority,” said Gilles.
So, there’s your news.
Oh, and there was that new lap record. Here’s how Dodge worded it:
“Chris Winkler, an SRT vehicle dynamics engineer, piloted a black and red 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR (American Club Racer) to a lap record of 1:33.915 as recorded by Motech in-vehicle data recorder (1:33.944–as unofficially recorded by trackside clock) around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) course, shattering the previous lap record by more than 1.1 seconds.” Here’s some video from Dodge:
Now we’re not saying this wasn’t a great achievement, even though 1.1 seconds might not constitute “shattering” by some definitions, and the car it “beat” was a Devon GTX, which may or may not share more parts with the Viper than most snakes. And there is the notion of what constitutes “production” and “record.” For its part, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, when queried, replied with a terse e-mail, which ended with these words:
“The official record remains 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves in qualifying for the 2000 race.”
Close your eyes and count one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi all the way to 27 to see how far off they were from the real track record. Of course, Castroneves wasn’t in a production car but there were, what, four Reynard-Hondas in that race 10 years ago and a total of 19 Reynards of one kind or another on the grid, not counting backup cars? So maybe Reynard could be a production car, too.
Dodge has only made 303 ACR Vipers total for all model years, which is perhaps 302 more than Devon has made GTXs. But if you start down that path, then you just spiral into bickering and debate about “production,” “record” and “car,” and we just don’t want all the nasty e-mails.
It all might have been a clever way for Dodge to distract attention from the fact that it sold only 245 Vipers in the 2009 model year and is trying to figure out how to sell all 500 Vipers planned for the 2010 model year. Dodge will start cranking out those 2010s in the spring, once all the 2009s are gone. Then production will stop in about mid-summer once the 500 2010s have been stamped.
Will there be a Viper after that?
“I hope so,” said Gilles. “We’re investigating that. The Viper nation is screaming at us to do that.”