Viper Owner Invitational Celebrates The People and Passion Surrounding America’s Ultimate Super Car

By Auto News Log • October 5th, 2010

- Ryan Schimsk sweeps Dodge Viper Cup series doubleheader, and Dodge’s Kuno Wittmer captures season finale in World Challenge GT– all in front of the Viper Nation faithful
- Chrysler Group’s Dan Knott is inducted into the Viper Club of America Hall of Fame

Auburn Hills, Mich. – Hundreds of Dodge Viper owners from around the world gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah this past weekend for the 11th edition of the Viper Owner Invitational (VOI.11).

The three-day event offered the ever-expanding “Viper Nation” crowd the chance to gather and enjoy a long list of activities, driving events and entertainment. Hosted by the Viper Club of America (VCA), the bi-annual event attracted more than 800 participants from as far away as Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and close to 350 Dodge Vipers.

An extensive Viper memorabilia showcase, vendor displays offering clothes to collectibles to performance parts, along with roundtable discussions and informative tech talks with Street and Engineering Technology (SRT) engineers kept all attendees entertained throughout the weekend.

VOI.11 also offered the chance for Viper owners to drive America’s ultimate supercar during planned caravan drives on the many scenic roads between Salt Lake City and Park City to the northeast and in the wide array of performance driving and racing activities taking place at Miller Motorsports Park to the southwest.

“This script for this event has never changed – it is planned and carried out for the passionate people of Viper Nation by the passionate people of Viper Nation,” said Chris Marshall, President of the Viper Club of America. “We believe the Dodge Viper is a truly iconic American super car and it deserves to remain in the spotlight and help to carry the torch for Dodge as Chrysler Group’s performance vehicle brand.”

Retired Chrysler executives Francois Castaing, Tom Gale and Tom Sidlik joined Ralph Gilles – Dodge Brand President and CEO, and Dan Knott – Senior Vice President, Purchasing and Supplier Quality, Chrysler Group, at VOI.11. Gilles not only played the role as an official Dodge host, he also drove in both Dodge Viper Cup series races at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday and Sunday.

“I can’t say enough about all the hard work the Viper Club of America continues to do for not only the Viper owners and fans around the world, but for the Dodge Brand as a whole,” said Gilles. “This spectacular VOI.11 event once again proves that the passion and camaraderie runs deep in the Viper Nation, as volunteers came together to make this event a success. We are privileged to be able to share so many special moments with our owners and enjoy ourselves in what continues to be very unique and lifelong relationships that only Viper enthusiasts can have.”

Past VOI events have been held in Detroit, Monterey, Calif., Indianapolis, Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, St. Louis, Nashville and Dallas.

Since its debut in 1992, Dodge has built 28,056 Vipers.

Knott named to VCA Hall of Fame

During the VOI.11’s opening night reception, Dan Knott, Senior Vice President – Purchasing and Supplier Quality, Chrysler Group, was inducted into the Viper Club of America Hall of Fame.

As director for Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team from 2002 to 2006, Knott managed the application of “Viper DNA” across the product lines within Chrysler Group delivering an impressive portfolio of vehicles, including the Dodge SRT4, Dodge Challenger SRT8, Dodge Charger SRT8, Dodge Magnum SRT8, Dodge Ram SRT10, Dodge Viper SRT 10 American Club Racer (ACR) Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 and Chrysler 300 SRT8.

Knott joined the former Chrysler Corporation in 1988. A native of Detroit, he holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in engineering, both from Michigan State University.

Dodge Viper Cup And World Challenge GT Races Add Excitement To VOI.11

Ryan Schimsk completed a sweep of the weekend race doubleheader by running away with both Dodge Viper Cup series races at Miller Motorsports Park in front of hundreds of screaming Viper fans.

Season race No. 8 on Sunday was tight for the first few laps as perennial series front-runner Ben Keating chased Schimsk who led from the pole on the East Course but was closely followed by Dodge Brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles and Keith Verges. About halfway through the race, Keating ran just a bit wide out of the left hand Turn No. 7 while running second, and Gilles jumped on the opportunity and made the pass. Verges then tried to go two-wide when Keating got loose and went off, taking Verges with him. Keating then drove slowly around to the pits for a lengthy checkup.

After that, it looked as if Schimsk had enough breathing room to cruise to the finish in the fourteen-lap race, if the rainstorm brewing in the desert would hold off.

Gilles had a comfortable gap on third-place Charlie Putman with two laps to go, but then the weather turned ugly as the storm blew in violently and the course became rain slick in places, slowing the pace. Putman began to close in on Gilles and was on his bumper as the two crossed the start/finish line to begin the last lap. Gilles held him off for half of the final lap, but then Putman was able to get by Gilles as the rain intensified.

Schimsk carefully crept through his last lap and still finished 6 seconds ahead of Putman in second place. Gilles finished third, while Verges finished fourth, ahead of Ted Hughes.

Just one day before, Schimsk took his same Viper ACR-X to an easy race win once again from the pole position. But just behind him, there were some epic battles that broke out.

Gilles, who qualified just four hundredths of a second behind Schimsk, fell behind second-row starters Keating and Putman early in the race as they fought for the runner-up position.

Working hard behind the wheel of his red No. 52 Viper ACR-X, Gilles continually challenged Putman into Turn 1 of the East Course, while Keating ran on the ragged edge in a vain attempt to catch Schimsk. All four drivers had best laps within a half second of each other, with Keating, Putman and Gilles blanketed by only a tenth of a second.

Keating eventually spun and dropped to fourth, several seconds behind Putman and Gilles, but was tantalized when Gilles half-spun out of the ever-exciting Turn One on the last lap of the race. Gilles turned the bobble into a spectacular 360 in a big cloud of desert dust as he got the Viper pointed in the right direction. He blasted off just in time to retain his place on the podium. Keating tried to catch him, but the checkered flag intervened.

“I had to check up as I was coming up behind Charles [Putman], and I got deep into the gravel,” said a smiling Gilles. “But I used my Jeep off-roading skills to wheelspin back on!”

As a result of Gilles’ two third-place finishes, Dodge Motorsports will donate $5,000 to his charity of choice, the National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (http://albinism.org) which assists the 1 in 17,000 people in the United States that has some form of albinism.

Schimsk was excited to see his team perform so well throughout the weekend. “Our doubleheader sweep means a lot to our team and will definitely help us in the run for the championship,” said Schimsk, who with his back-to-back wins, overtook Ben Keating in the overall season standings.

Earlier in the day on Sunday, Dodge’s Kuno Wittmer captured the season finale of the 2010 World Challenge GT, in front of the enthusiastic Viper faithful.

Wittmer’s No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper started second and held that position through the first corner. After falling behind the Volvo of Randy Pobst by just over a second early in the race, Wittmer took the lead on lap nine as the pair encountered traffic in Turn 5.

Once in the lead, Wittmer was challenged by the Volvo-powered teammates Pobst and Andy Pilgrim.

Wittmer and Pilgrim pulled away slightly from Pobst and the remainder of the race was a two-car, nose-to-tail battle between the Dodge Viper and the Volvo. Wittmer never faltered and ran a mistake-free race, however, and finished the 22-lap race ahead by just 0.346-second.

It was the second win of the year for Wittmer, who finished the season second in the Drivers’ Championship. “We’ve been fighting all season-long to win this championship,” Wittmer said. “We couldn’t win it, but we were able to get second place, so we’re really, really proud. This Dodge Viper has been really fast and consistent all season long. We’ve had some highs and lows, but it’s been mostly highs. To win at Long Beach back in April and then to finish off with a win here in front of the Viper Nation shows how outstanding this Woodhouse Dodge team has been.”

Source: Dodge Motorsports

 

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