Don't say Ralph Gilles isn't competitive.
Gilles is the head of Chrysler's SRT division -- the brand that recently introduced the all-new 640-horsepower Viper sports car. Shortly after the Viper was introduced, Motor Trend took it to Laguna Seca racetrack in Monterey for a head-to-head comparison with a rival 2013 Chevy Corvette ZR1.
The Corvette beat the Viper and set a course record -- one previously held by an older Viper.
Gilles was not pleased.
After all, the Viper just got redesigned. The Corvette used in the comparison, by contrast, hadn't been updated in several years. (An all-new seventh-generation Corvette goes on sale later this year.) That a new Viper would lose to an old Corvette didn't make Gilles' product look particularly good.
Gilles took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the results, placing the bulk of the blame for the Viper's loss on Randy Pobst, the professional racer Motor Trend hired to drive the two cars.
"There was a lot more left in the car," Gilles tweeted. "Randy has always struggled with the Viper."
Now it seems SRT, Gilles and Motor Trend have buried the hatchet.
SRT announced it will make a special edition of the Viper called the T/A, for "time attack." This version is a stripped-down, track-oriented version of the Viper. So confident were Gilles and SRT in this version's capabilities, that they handed one to Motor Trend for another go at Laguna Seca.
The effort worked; with Pobst behind the wheel of the Viper T/A, the car beat the Corvette's record by a scant .08 second. The time was about half a second faster than Pobst's previous run in the the Viper.
Though the gains may seem minuscule to some, the bragging rights alone appear worth the effort for SRT. "We're re-launching some of the fastest production-built cars that people can buy straight from the factory," Gilles said in a statement following the T/A's record.
To get there, the company didn't alter the stock Viper's horsepower. Buyers still get 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque from a massive 8.4-liter V-10. But the street-legal T/A version does make changes to the cars' handling and aerodynamics.
The two-mode Bilstein suspension system has been revised; unique lightweight wheels are wrapped in extra-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires; the spring dampers and stabilizer bars have been retuned; the front brakes are upgraded Brembo units; and the aluminum brace in the engine bay has been replaced with a stiffer carbon fiber unit.
A carbon fiber front splitter and rear spoiler have been added, and lightweight Sabelt racing seats installed inside. Only 33 of the Viper T/A models will be sold, and they'll be offered as 2014 models.
The car will head to the upcoming New York Auto Show for its premiere, where it will join other Chrysler products like the all-new Jeep Cherokee and a refreshed Dodge Durango. Watch Highway 1 for full coverage of the New York show, as well as an upcoming test of the stock 2013 SRT Viper. Lap times not included.
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