The Viper Day's 1998 Viper Challenge Finals was held at Roebling Road in Savannah, Georgia on January 8th thru the 10th. Our Viper Coupe was transported from Huntington Beach, California via our new transporter. Erik Messley, Ron Hill and Justin Hill took turns at the wheel to get our Viper into Savannah. They left Thursday 2:30am in the morning and rolled into Savannah at 6:30am Saturday morning. We missed Friday, an opportunity to test and tune.
Our team this time out included Erik Messley, our Driver, Chris Jensen and Dan Cragin, our official wrenches from Claude Short Dodge, Ron Hill and his son Justin who shared in the driving the transporter with Erik nonstop from California, John Purner from Complete Custom Wheel, who supplies us with Wheels and Tires, Erik's Wife Sherry, John Morgan and Perry, which are other friends of mine and myself, Ron Levi. So we were well represented at the event and our crew worked miracles as usual.
Saturday We unloaded the car, set up the suspension a little and drove out onto the track. During this first session on the track Erik turned a 1:15.15, this ended up being good enough for 3rd Place in the Pro Unlimited Class and it's a good thing. On the second time out after tweaking the suspension a little more, our MoTech (computerized ignition) started reporting low fuel pressure. Erik came off the track and him and Chris proceeded to take apart our brand new fuel cell. They found that the foam in the fuel cell was sqaushing and cramping the fuel filters hence creating low fuel pressure. John Purner came by just in time to tell us to make springs out of coat hangers to hold the filters open. They used his idea and it worked, only problem now is that it was raining and the track would not produce any good times in that condition.
Saturday day night we had dinner with all the participants at the Pink House a great restaurant in Savannah. It was a great time for all and then we went to bed.
Sunday Sunday we got to the track about 7:00pm when the track opened. We pulled the car into one of the garages and Erik, Chris, Dan and Ron Hill then totally realigned the suspension with some of the weirdest alignment tools ever. They used a tape measure, a yardstick, and a jack handle for measurement. These guys are talented!
After putting a major tweak into the Coupe Erik donned his racing suit and out on the track he went only to find out the brand new Tilton Racing Clutch we put in, costing tons of money, had a defective hydraulic fitting and back off the track he came, never even getting the tires warmed up. The wrenches went back to work on the car, Erik, Chris, Dan and Ron were under the car for hours. They juryrigged a temporary fitting and bled the lines. Bleeding the lines was not an easy task because there was still a minor leak. About 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon Erik drove back out on the track to give it another try. He went out in a group with Ron Mishak Junior and John Hennessey,
Erik was first. When he went around the carousel he spun out, Mishak Jr. came in with a faulty O2 sensor and when Hennessey entered the straightaway he lost control and went into the Pit Wall at about 100MPH - the good news, he was not injured, the bad news, I think the car was totaled. After that the straightaway was such a mess with the coolant, other fluids and body parts and pieces that the track officials called the event.
So we came in 3rd behind Bobby Archer, a professional driver of a World Challenge Viper and Altonberger, a Professional Driver who won four different points series in 1998, so at least we were in good company.
We are committed to the Viper Challenge Series for the West in 1999 and we will be out at Rupert's Track in Pahrump in February for the first 1999 Viper Challenge race this year. We'll keep you updated as always.