2014 SRT Viper TA Track Drive

Confession: The 2014 SRT Viper TA is the first Viper I have driven. Like its namesake, the Viper has a reputation for biting its driver at the limits. In fact, professional racer Randy Pobst said about the Viper at the 2013’s Best Driver’s Car competition, “I broke a sweat driving fast in the car today,” Pobst’s comments, as well as his 2.07-second slower lap time (1:33.70 versus 1:35.77) compared to the ZR1, prompted SRT to speed up development of the track-oriented Viper TA, and yes, TA stands for Time Attack.

In just nine weeks, SRT rolled out the Viper TA. Based on the standard SRT Viper, the TA model features revised suspension, brakes, new aerodynamics, and less weight. With the GTS’ shortcomings addressed, Pobst returned to Laguna Seca to beat the ZR1’s time — and his own record — to set the fastest lap time for a street car around Laguna Seca by 0.08 second, while besting his Viper GTS lap by 2.15 seconds. Read the engine trends 2014 SRT Viper TA First Test right here.

When I got the chance to drive the 2014 Viper TA on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway, I was excited, but also a bit nervous to drive the fastest infamous serpent on the fastest track on the West Coast. I’m an automotive journalist, not a professional racer.

Compared with the standard Viper, the TA model features a retuned dual-mode Bilstein DampTronic suspension system with firmer settings, retuned shocks, orange-painted springs, more camber, and solid sway bars. A lighter carbon-fiber X-brace in the engine compartment replaces the standard aluminum brace. The Viper TA rides on lightweight Sidewinder II alloy wheels (18 x 10.5-inch front, 19 x 13-inch rear), while the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires (295/30/18 front, 355/30/19 rear) are unchanged . Wider Brembo two-piece rotors and larger pads replace the base car’s standard Stoptech one-piece rotors, while the existing Brembo calipers, with black anodized finish and TA Orange Viper logo, remain.

Aerodynamic improvements include carbon-fiber front splitters and rear spoiler, while a carbon-fiber rear applique makes the Viper appear wider from behind. Exterior emblems have been replaced with stickers to further reduce weight. Inside, the Viper TA gets the standard car’s fabric seats with racing harness slots. The black interior features orange stitching on the seats, instrument panel, center stack, console, hand brake, shifter boot and knob, steering wheel, and upper doors.

My introduction to the Viper TA involved a first-gear autocross. Why only first gear? Because the Viper TA can do 62 mph in first gear. After an initial ride-along with SRT boss Ralph Gilles, I got a warm-up lap of my own before doing three consecutive laps. Despite a strong wind peppering sand on the “Balcony” skidpad and autocross area at Willow, my lap times dropped with each successive lap as I became more comfortable in the Viper TA. After familiarizing myself with the super serpent, I headed to the big track.

While I’ve driven on other tracks, this was also my first time at Willow Springs with the infamous Turn 9. In order to keep the shiny side up, SRT added a few chicanes on the track to slow speeds before the faster sections of the track, including one at Turn 8 to slow us down before Turn 9, and again after the long straight before the 90-degree Turn 1. After another ride-along to get familiar with the track, I was turned loose to attack Big Willow on my own. In the Viper TA, Big Willow is best attacked in fourth gear, shifting down into third gear only to climb the hill at Turn 3 until reaching the bottom at Turn 5.

At 175.7 inches long, the Viper is 9 inches longer than the Subaru BRZ, though it has a 4.4-inch shorter wheelbase. With an 8.4-liter V-10 behind the front axle, the Viper feels similar to driving the BRZ — from the rear seat. However, that feeling isn’t as extreme as it is in the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Like the BRZ, the Viper TA feels balanced, which isn’t surprising given the amount of grip it offers. With 295mm width tires front and 355mm width rear, the Viper has the largest overall contact patch of any production car, according to SRT. Even with 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, the Viper TA felt stable even through some of the faster corners.

My first round consisted of a warm-up lap, three hot laps, and a cool-down lap. Next, I hopped into the passenger seat with ALMS racer Tommy Kendall for a few hot laps. From the passenger seat, the Viper TA felt stable even as Kendall drifted the Viper through a few of the faster turns. After hopping back into the driver’s seat, I proceeded to put down another set of hot laps. With each successive lap I carried more speed through each section of the track, even reaching 142 mph at the top of fourth gear along the long straight between Turn 9 and Turn 1 before braking for the temporary chicane. A bright red Striker logo appears on the speedometer’s central information screen when approaching redline. Way cool. Not once during my track time did I approach the Viper TA’s limits, nor did I feel that I would lose control even through the more technical turns 3 through 5.

Although the Viper TA was created for customers who want a no-compromise track car, it is still a legitimate street car. After a couple sessions of hot laps, I drove another Viper TA on a predetermined route outside of the track. With the suspension in its “softer” track setting, the Viper TA rides more smoothly than expected and exhibited almost zero body roll through highway curves — even above suggested speeds. The Viper TA test numbers below are taken from the engine trends first test.

The book on early Vipers was that they punished mistakes, especially if drivers got too comfortable. (SRT acknowledges that early models were a bit less forgiving than the latest car.) While that may be true, the latest Serpent isn’t as scary as its reputation.

2014 SRT ViperTA
BASE PRICE $116,000
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 8.4L/640-hp/600-lb-ft OHV 20-valve V-10
TRANSMISSION 6 speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3332lbs (50/50%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 175.7 x 76.4 x 49.1 in
0-60MPH 3.3 seconds
QUARTER MILE 11.3sec @ 129.3mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 94 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 22.9sec @ 0.95g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 281/177 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.35lb/mile

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