The Silverstone Classic is well-regarded as one of the world’s very finest historic race meetings. From Pre-War vintage Bentleys and Bugattis to moder, cutting edge Le Mans endurance racers from the early 2010s, the depth and variety of this tribute to competition is always a fantastic occasion.
In 2022, my father Neil and I decided to invest in a 2007 Dodge Viper GT2 to race and having entered into the Masters Historic series and the Masters Endurance Legends class with other fantastic Le Mans racers from the 2000s and 2010s, competing in the Silverstone Classic 2022 was sure to be a very surreal event. Having been an immense fan of endurance racing ever since I was a little boy, watching the World Endurance Championship, American Le Mans Series and other high-level racing series in front of the television for as long as I can remember, now having the chance to compete in our own car against some of my idolised childhood heroes was simply surreal.
Our Viper was previously raced by Robert Kubica, being one of his first races back since his terrible accident in the early stages of 2011 so the car had great competition history and had plenty of success behind it. We hoped this weekend would be no different. We knew the car was capable, and even though we’d be competing against much newer machinery, a podium or class win would be the target.
Qualifying on early Saturday morning would be a strong start to the weekend, with the Viper claiming pole position in its class, and second in the GT division. The pole position car, a 2013 Ferrari 458 GT3 was a much more modern car than ours, with a completely flat floor, an electronic sequential gearbox, traction control and more sophisticated aerodynamics, so to be the next best car after that was not a disappointment at all.
As Race 1 got underway, the Viper’s immense firepower was able to draft past the Ferrari on the run into Brooklands and having made a few setup changes to the car following on from qualifying, I began to edge out a slender lead which I was able to build on throughout the first half of the race. The 8.4 Litre V10 was rumbling its way around the English countryside, and having spoken to some spectators at the event, was making a proper American noise! Just before my only pitstop of the race, I heard a weird noise from the engine bay, and a slight vibration began resonating around the cabin. Even the lack of windows couldn’t disguise the noise I was hearing. The car had developed a misfire. With one hand tied behind my back, I kept pushing on only to quickly realise that the issue was worsening, and I was losing significant power. To save the car for Race 2, I had no choice but to retire the car from the lead, to preserve the hopes we could resolve the issue in time to go full attack on Race 2 the following day. It was, of course disappointing to have to watch the remaining laps from the sidelines, but with time to study the car and resolve the issue with the HT leads, I was sure Sunday would be a better day.
Sunday rolled around and with a renewed determination for success, the Viper roared into life and sounded as good as ever. The lights went out and due to the retirement in Race 1, I was forced to start from the back of the grid, but with lots of ground to make up, I was able to get my head down and focus forward to where I wanted to be. Having made up 4 places on lap 1, the progress continued and before too long, I was back in the lead pack and chasing down the Ferrari which I was battling with the previous day. As the pit window opened, I was able to stay out longer than my competition so after starting dead last, was back in the lead of the Silverstone Classic. The car felt great and the misfire wasn’t present so I was looking forward to a strong end to a competitive weekend. Sadly just before the final third of the race begun, an oil union deep in the engine bay worked it’s way loose and began dropping oil from the car, producing a lot of smoke and forcing me into the pits again to retire the car for the second time of the weekend.
It was disappointing to have two fairly minor issues dampen a strong weekend, but with a renewed vigour to achieve success in this car, this would not be the last time the glorious Viper would be pushed to the limit around the UK circuits!