On the podium: The No. 91 SRT® Viper GTS-R finishes third at Daytona.
The No. 91 SRT® Motorsports Viper GTS-R team claimed a third-place GTLM class finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the inauguralevent of the new IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, with drivers Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay piloting the car to the podium result.
Each driver of the No. 91 led laps in their opening stint after the team started from the pole. However, the group had a power steering fluid line rupture in the overnight hours and rushed to the garage for repairs. The SRT team returned to the track after a rapid, 15-minute repair in the garage and fought constantly for the rest of the race to regain positions and laps while also keeping an eye on the attrition of the GTLM competition. The team was down a number of laps to the leader at one point before engineering the comeback for a podium finish.
“The performance was good, but the kind of racing this is now you have one little mishap and you have to fight your whole way to get back,” said Bill Riley, vice president and chief engineer of Riley Technologies, after the race. “We had a power steering line fail. We got 12 laps down and we ended up four laps down by just continuing to fight. It’s a shame because we didn’t have any other issues besides that. After that, the hood or the body never had to come off the car, so it was pretty much a flawless run besides that. We fought all day, we didn’t give up and we’re on the podium.”
The podium finish was the sixth for SRT Motorsports team since returning sports car competition in the 2012 season. The third-place showing also put Viper back on the podium at Daytona International Speedway after winning the 2000 Rolex 24 overall in the marque’s last appearance at the World Center of Racing.
The sister No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R finished sixth after the team started the race in a similarly competitive situation as the No. 91. After starting third in class and seeing each driver – Rob Bell, Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer – each lead at least one lap in their respective race-opening driving stints, the No. 93 quickly joined the No. 91 as the primary class pacesetters in the first third of the race.
Dominik, how do you evaluate today’s race?
“I look at it with a happy eye and with a crying eye because we could have won. My teammates – Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and Marc (Goossens), they did an outstanding job, as did the sister car – we were just driving our butts off and the mechanics worked so hard. It’s a little bit disappointing.
We could have – we ran the same pace the front runners did equally as fast and I think we could have been there the last couple of laps, but that wasn’t the case. We also can look at it in a good light because these are important points for the championship.
Third place – that gives you quite a lot of points. That’s very important for the future.
Other than that, I want to thank my teammates for the outstanding job this weekend and let’s go win at Sebring (International Raceway).”
Coincidentally, just minutes after the No. 91 returned to the race after the nighttime repair, a contact incident forced the No. 93 from the lead lap and into a lengthy run of pit-side repairs to fix the front end. Like the No. 91, Bomarito, Bell and Wittmer fought back from several laps down and back into the top five top-five in class by mid-morning on Sunday.
By then, the No. 91 had worked its way up to fourth place, one spot ahead of their teammates, but any hope of the No. 93 moving even further up in the running order quickly came to an end when a second problem emerged. The entry came to a stop on course with a driveshaft flange issue that put an end to any SRT dual podium aspirations as the No. 93 lost several laps back in the garage for additional repairs.
Despite the No. 93’s disappointing finish, SRT Motorsports should be well positioned in the early season point standings for the TUDOR GTLM Team Championship.
The IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship moves on to race at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 15, for the annual 12 Hours of Sebring.
Some interesting facts about the race...
• The SRT Motorsports No. 91 Viper GTS-R started the race from the GTLM pole position after Goossens qualifying run, with the No. 93 Viper positioned directly behind after qualifying third in class.
• Both the No. 91 and 93 SRT Viper teams led laps within the race’s opening 30 minutes with first-stint drivers Goossens and Bomarito, respectively.
• All six SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-Rs drivers – Bell, Bomarito, Farnbacher, Goossens, Hunter-Reay and Wittmer – led laps in the GTLM class during their respective opening stints in the endurance event.
• The No. 91 SRT Viper team experienced a failure in the power steering line that dictated a 15-minute repair during the race’s middle portion. The team was able to rebound after making repairs and take home a third-place result.
• The No. 93 SRT Viper overcame a contact incident during Saturday’s evening hours to return to the top-five in the GTLM class on Sunday, but was thwarted by a driveshaft flange issue on Sunday afternoon.
• After making repairs to the driveshaft, the No. 93 SRT Viper returned to the track and finished sixth.
• The 52nd running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona marked the inaugural event of the new IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
• The series next competes at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 15. Prior to the event, the series will host a two-day test at Sebring on February 20 and 21.