Germany’s Nurburgring can be a tempting target for car companies seeking to make their bones on the international performance circuit. With 12.9 miles of twists and turns made famous by hundreds of drivers across scores of racing series, the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife configuration is even more appealing to enthusiasts by virtue of the fact that it’s open to the public as part of the country’s highway system. That connection between grassroots enthusiasts and big-time automakers is a rare one in the high performance world, and it’s part of what makes the Viper Owners Association and Prefix Automotive’s Nurburgring lap record attempt in a 2017 Dodge SRT Viper ACR possible, which is happening now after a long time planning.
You see, the pair are part of a group that are tackling the ‘Green Hell’ without any support at all from FCA, the parent corporation that built the very last Vipers to roll off the assembly line at the Connor Avenue Assembly plant for the 2017 model year. With production over and the global performance focus now firmly on Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, there was no enthusiasm in the board room to bring the Viper ACR to Germany in a bid to recapture its now-eclipsed street-legal production vehicle lap time record (7 minutes, 12 seconds) that it scored in 2010.
Not that any of that corporate inertia deterred the team.
‘This has been one of the best all-around track production cars ever built, bar none, based on its records at so many different tracks,’ Richard Winkle, Chief Engineer at Prefix-Arrow Racing Engines, told us. ‘Why not embellish that legacy?’
If the names ‘Prefix’ and ‘Arrow Racing Engines’ sound familiar to you, then you probably have Viper venom running in your veins. While Connor Ave. might assemble the Viper it’s never had a paint shop, which is where Prefix has been filling in since the very beginning of the car’s production in the early 90s. Responsible for painting every panel by hand, and then dyno-testing the engines under the hood, Prefix now also owns Arrow, which handled engine warranty claims work on the Viper until the latest Generation 5 model (and is still deeply involved with Dodge).
How did the ball get rolling on this unique privateer project? In January of 2017, the Viper Owners Association set up a crowdfunding page intended to snatch back the title of ‘fastest production car’ at the Nurburgring back from the Porsche 918, which had claimed it with a lap of 6 minutes, 57 seconds four years ago. The goal was to take two Viper ACR Extremes, donated by the ViperExchange dealership, and send them over to Europe where a pair of Viper-savvy race drivers would go for broke. The estimated cost was between $150,000 and $200,000, and it wasn’t long before the campaign had amassed a huge amount of support, topping off at just under $175,000 in donations.
By the beginning of June, Prefix announced its intentions to provide a major financial, logistical, and parts assist to the Nurburgring record effort, in addition to helping to secure not just drivers for each of the cars but also the track time necessary to get the job done. The latter came in the form of tire manufacturer Kumho allocating its allotment of industry days at the ‘Ring as well as booking off specific, exclusive windows where the Viper ACR Extremes will be all alone on the Nordschleife.
‘Kumho came through in a really big way,’ said Winkle. ‘We’ll get a lot of seat time before making the record attempt, and also have several chances to get the lap we need.’
Behind the wheel will be Dominick Farnbacher (the pilot who set the first production car ‘Ring record for the ACR), and Lucas Stolz, a young German driver recently on the pole at the 24 Hours at the Nurburgring. Confidence is high.
‘When the Gen 4 car went in 2011, there was an ACR X there too alongside the street car,’ Winkle explained. ‘On slicks, the X posted a 7:02, with the difference being that it had headers and no catalytic converters, putting out 640 horsepower and riding on slicks. The current Gen 5 car is good for 645 horsepower (from its 8.4-liter V10), and the special Kumho tires it wears from the factory are better than the slicks we had just a few years ago, in my opinion.’
Although the car has to be left in factory trim, Winkle and the team will be setting it up to balance out the extreme downforce produced by the car with the need to achieve the high speeds made possible by the Nordschleife’s long straight-aways. ‘We’ve got better aero now, producing more downforce but with the same drag as the ACR X package,’ he said. ‘Combined with the sections of the track that have been repaved – which some racers are saying is helping slice as much as 10 seconds off of a lap – simple math puts us at 6 minutes, 52 seconds compared to the ACR X’s 7:02.’
That figure would shatter the current Porsche record by five seconds – but Nurburgring lap records can be contentious given the relatively casual atmosphere in which some are achieved, with no rule book, official oversight, or standards to follow. This makes the time of 6:52 that much more important. In October of last year, a Lamborghini Huracán Performante claimed a 6:52 lap during a test overseen by the manufacturer, backed up by a video whose claimed abnormalities quickly had the industry squabbling about its legitimacy. It was also riding on custom made Pirelli Trofeo R slick tires designed specifically for the event, which had Christian von Koenigsegg himself questioning whether it the accomplishment could truly be linked to a ‘production’ car.
There won’t be any such issues surrounding the Dodge Viper ACR Extreme’s attempt to lock down the Nurburgring record, as the campaign has been transparent and intends to stay well within the lines when it comes to running a well-setup showroom stock car. As for his opinion on the recent ‘Ring record controversies, involving cars that maybe had no witnesses to their claimed record runs, Richard Winkle refuses to let himself be distracted.
‘I’m not all that interested in commenting on any of that,’ he told us.
Look for the ACR Extreme to smash the Nordschleife production car record by the end of July. Follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/ViperRingKing/