SRT – R.I.P.

Story and Photos by Jack Webster

Nothing in life is guaranteed. One minute you are flying high, the next you are knocked down. Such is life. It is not fair. It is what it is, as they say.

For the guys who poured their heart and soul into the SRT Dodge Viper GTLM program in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this season, the word that they were all losing their jobs right after winning the driver’s and team championships for Dodge at Petit Le Mans last Saturday had to be especially crushing.

Drivers will find another ride, engineers will find other jobs, but the crewmen, the guys in the trenches who breathed life into the mechanical beast and were the most instrumental in the success of the program this year, well, that is another story.

I know, for I’ve been there. I worked as a crewman back in the 1980’s in the Camel GT series and I know the amount of dedication, teamwork, long hours and sacrifice it takes to run a race team throughout a season.

The crew literally becomes a band of brothers for there is no other experience I know of that bonds people together like working on a race team, with the exception of perhaps living and dying together in combat.

Families and friends are sacrificed due to the demands of the team. Hundreds, hell, thousands of man-hours are put into building, preparing, repairing and running a race car. The core group of guys who go to the races and work on the cars have a dedication that is second to none in all of sport. Of course, it is not just the Viper guys who fall into this category; it is everyone in the paddock, on every team, who had dedicated their time, talent and energy to accomplishing a single goal – to win.

We used to have a saying in our race shop, which stated the obvious in motorsports: “Work Expands to Meet Time Allotted”. The car demands all of your attention, all of your time, all of your energy. If you are loading the car the next morning to head out to a race, it is not uncommon for the crew to pull an all-nighter getting everything ready, checking and double checking everything before finally loading the result of their labors onto the truck.

There is nothing like the high of wining, just as there is nothing as low as losing in motorsports. Crashed the car in practice, and qualifying is in two hours? – No problem, everyone knows his job and sets to work to accomplish the goal of getting the car back on the track. Something break during the race and you find yourselves 20 laps down? – The crew never gives up as long as there is the slightest amount of life in the beast.

And after the race, while the drivers are enjoying the podium celebration and the press interviews? The crew is tearing down the pits and loading the truck, getting ready to head back to the shop and then on to the next race, perhaps pausing for a celebratory beer or two and slap on the back for a job well done.

So, the demise of SRT Viper by the powers that be, the bean counters, the bottom-liners, the money guys, they have no idea what it is like to be a part of a team. They have no idea about the amount of blood, sweat and tears the guys who work on the cars have put into the effort. They also don’t care.

But I care, along with anyone in the paddock who has ever worked on a race car and sacrificed everything to make it live. For a race car is a living, breathing thing and without the crew it is just a hunk of assorted parts.

So the next time you go to a race, any race, any series, anywhere, please take note of the guys who work on the cars. They are the real heroes of motorsport. To all the SRT Viper guys who accomplished so much with so little this year – hat’s off to you and here’s hoping you all land back on your feet where you belong – in the paddock.

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