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 inaugural event 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.
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.