Lap of Luxury: The Viper’s Record-Breaking Lap Recap

It was quite a day. For anyone who couldn’t join us for our special live coverage of the 2010 Viper ACR’s first track test at Laguna Seca last week, you missed out on some genuine automotive history outside Monterey, California (but don’t worry, you can take a spin through it here).


Dodge had set out to fully test the new Viper for the first time, to push her limits a bit and find out what she was truly capable of. The results were, frankly, mind-blowing: With perfect sunny weather and Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles on hand, Chrysler Street and Racing Technology (SRT) engineer Chris Winkler took a few practice runs around the track, accelerated through a half-dozen hot laps, and flashed past the lap clock as it ticked off a 1:33.944 (it turns out the real record was even faster, as the in-car Motech data recorder clocked the lap at 1:33.915) — a production car record for this fabled 2.238-mile, 11-turn course that shattered the previous lap record by more than 1.1 seconds.


“It was definitely exciting, but a somewhat uneventful lap overall from behind the steering wheel,” claimed the ever-unassuming Winkler, who amazingly had only driven Laguna Seca raceway once before. “The Dodge Viper ACR has amazing power and handles like a dream, so following my first practice here last month, I came away pretty confident that we’d be able to set a new record.”


“I’ve been closely tied to this car my entire career and even after owning one myself for some time, I’m still amazed with what the Dodge Viper can do on and off the race track,” Gilles added, although he admitted that they did arrive with some great expectations (and not just because this was a record Dodge had held until August 2009). “After our record-setting lap at the Nürburgring circuit, we’re excited to set a second performance benchmark record at another world-famous road course.” Much of the credit goes to improvements made specifically for 2010, including a shorter fifth gear ratio (changing from 0.74 to 0.80) for improved high-speed acceleration and higher straightaway speeds, as well as redesigned rear wing profile and end plates to optimize the vehicle aerodynamics and improve rear yaw downforce (up to 1,000 pounds of downforce at 150 mph).


Perhaps no one could speak to the significance of the day better than Winkler, who, after some well-deserved accolades for his role as driver, returned to his day job as an SRT engineer. “It’s an incredible honor,” said Winkler. “I’m glad that they didn’t just hire a professional, and went to one of the guys who actually developed the car. Ralph and all the guys at SRT — I’m just thankful that they gave me the opportunity.”


And as one of the engineers who helped build this beast, perhaps there’s no one better qualified to speak to all of the modifications the crew had to make to take a street-legal Viper ACR and bring it up to record-breaking snuff. “We took it off the assembly line, put it in a transporter, and brought it to Laguna Seca — basically, very little,” he admitted. “We dropped the ride height, we turned the knobs to their suggested setting, and that was it. The car is fantastic. And there’s still more in it for sure.”


And that’s music to the ears of Ralph Gilles (who couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out on the track himself in his own sleek black Voodoo Viper). “We’re going to keep Dodge’s performance icon alive and well by not only producing some of the most special Vipers ever built, but we’re also investigating what the next-generation Viper is going to be,” he said. “When we have partners across the ocean who are known as the best sports carmakers in the world, the future opportunities are huge.”


Watch video of Chris Winkler, and his record-breaking lap in the 2010 Viper ACR, below: