Team Viper West

Viper Challenge February 20th - 21st 1999

Erik and Sherry Messley

Erik, his wife Sherry and Earnie Becker drove our rig up to Pahrump, Nevada hauling the Viper on Tuesday night arriving at Spring Mountain Motor Speedway.

Erik rented the track on Wednesday and shared it with Doug Dye, one of our close friends from the So Cal Viper Club. Erik worked on getting the Viper dialed into the track for the upcoming Viper Challenge on Saturday and Sunday.

The rest of the crew arrived late Friday night and we were at the track at 6AM on Saturday morning. Erik took the Viper out on the track for the first session about 9:15AM - the car was running great but the suspension still needed to be dialed in a lot more. Each time he came in we took the tire temperatures and air pressure from all tires.

Dodge Viper and Stephon in front of the Car Carrier Garage

Erik kept making adjustments to our 5 way adjustable Penske shocks and our ride height looking to find the magic adjustment that would let us get more power down to the ground.

After lunch Erik went out in a run group with Jeff Altenburg who was driving Hennesey's Yellow Coupe, after running behind Altenburg for a few laps Erik decided to pass him and it was quite a two car race, with our Coupe prevailing. This guy Altenburg is a great driver, he won four points series in 1998.

Erik and Ron

After Saturday was all done, Erik was sitting in 1st place with his fastest lap being 1:43.35 in the Solo event. Saturday night we attended the Viper Challenge Banquet at the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas where we listened to Tommy Archer describe driving a GTS-R at the 24 hours of LeMans, it was an amazing day.

On Sunday morning we were back out at the track at 6:30AM - we warmed up the Viper and prepared for the final day. Today would be the final solo event and a fender to fender race for the cars equipped with the proper safety equipment.

Altenburg went out in the morning and bested Erik's Solo time by 2 tenth's. When Erik tried to best Altenburg's time we ran into the same problem that has been plaguing us since making the last major alteration to the Coupe, we have lots of power, but can't transfer it to the ground and make the car stick. So going into lunch we found ourselves in 2nd place for the Solo event.

Team Viper West

After lunch we found out that Altenburg's Hennesey prepared Yellow Coupe would not be in the fender to fender race because it didn't have a roll cage, which is required for the fender to fender race. Erik won the fender to fender race by a margin of over 50 seconds. If we could only get the car to hook up to track we could take back first place in the Solo event and sweep the weekend!!

Well Erik went back out to try and do just that. He tried an extreme change in the rear shocks adjusting the rebound. The results seemed to find more traction until he hit the brakes exiting the straightaway, he says over the radio, "oops" as the right rear wheel locked up and Erik went on an off road excursion at almost 150MPH. Yes folks, he went off the track, deep into the desert, at least he didn't try to save it and end up going straight.

Some of the crew at the Viper Challenge

When he came to a stop after his unexpected E-Ticket ride he got on the radio and said he was OK. We had to have the Viper towed out it was so deep into the desert. When we got it back to the rig we found it was a small amount of cosmetic damage and the worst part was a hole in the radiator from the oil cooler.

Erik wanted me to comment that when you're at an event, after two days of racing and the day is drawing to an end - that is no time to start making major changes to your car and not really the time to try and run a best lap. Even he can experience brain-fade, it won't happen again.

So we got the Viper home and checked the frame, it's fine. We're getting the front fascia fixed and we'll be back at it at Willow Springs on March 13th and 14th for the second Viper Challenge of 1999. To keep up with the Viper Challenge Schedule go to: