NOVI, MI – Chrysler raises SRT’s profile with the performance brand’s introduction to the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, the French motor race that was just as much of a coming-out party for the marque as it was a grueling sporting event.
Chrysler last sent a team to Le Mans in 2000, with racers commanding the Dodge Viper. This year, the Viper is under the SRT umbrella, the latest test for engineers of the nascent brand.
"The thing that I think is great is we’re so connected with car customers, and obviously the racing history with Vipers is paramount for us,” Mark Trostle, head of SRT Motorsports and Design, tells WardsAuto at a local Le Mans viewing party here. “When we were developing the road car, we were also developing the racecar.
“Coming to Le Mans was one of our goals, so it’s so cool that we’re finally here with this car, and it’s such an inspiration for everyone on the team.”
During the race, SRT debuted a second commercial for its lineup – the Viper and modified versions of the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300. An earlier ad lauding the desire to own a muscle car was unveiled earlier this month launching the brand’s national marketing campaign.
For Le Mans, SRT tuned a Viper GT3-R, which borrows the V-10 engine from the Viper GTS but subtracts 200 hp. “Otherwise, we’d be killing everyone,” Trostle laughs. “Motor racing is obviously a great way for us to learn. The same engineers that we have on the race team are the same ones I work with developing the road car.
“We, within the design studio, work closely with them, even when it comes to things such as cornering lamps,” he says about the synchronicity across departments. “The drivers were complaining about how there wasn’t enough light at night, so…we worked with (the engineers) to package those lamps in there to make it more seamless visually.”
Chrysler’s revving harder into motorsports comes on the heels of Dodge exiting NASCAR this year, although executives have said they hope to return soon.
For now, the auto maker looks to retain the Viper faithful while also attracting new fans to the supercar.
“The racing things are great to be a part of,” Trostle says. “It really does feel like everything we work on, and what the customer gets out of that, shows our commitment to the sport and…to the brand.
“The (Viper) was always spectacular,” he adds, “but there were things we knew that once we refined we were going to broaden our customer base. That was one of our goals with the new car.”