8

Less than a year after its introduction, the first special-edition SRT Viper has arrived, the SRT Viper TA, and in keeping with the car's racing success, this new variant is a capable track-day special. TA stands for 'time attack', referring to the qualifying-style competitions popular among American racing sanctions.

Fundamentally, the configuration of this American supercar is unchanged from its outrageous original spec. The massive 8.4-litre V10 makes the identical 640bhp and 600lb ft as the standard SRT Viper, and still delivers neck-straining acceleration. The ratios for the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox and final drive are unchanged.

Yet the devil is in the details, as they say, and mostly under the skin. The suspension is thoroughly improved for track work, with spring rates up 20 percent. Stabiliser bars are over 30 percent stiffer and the two-mode, electronically adjustable Bilstein DampTronic dampers, which are revised to suit the changes in stiffness, are restricted to just Sport and Race settings. There is no Street setting.

SRT fits the lightest available original-equipment forged alloy wheels, finished exclusively in matt black, and wraps them in wide Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres. The aggressive alignment settings are specific to the TA and are more suited to chasing lap times than enjoying long-distance drives through California.

The cockpit is kept refreshingly simple and focused, and is finished in black with contrasting orange stitching throughout. The Sabelt-supplied buckets are trimmed with back-to-basics cloth inserts – a welcome choice over cowhide for track-day drivers. The leather-covered, flat-bottomed steering wheel is the perfect size and shape, too, and the sort of ideal wheel you get when the company’s CEO is both a designer and a racer.

The TA gets the six-outlet bonnet that's optional on lesser Vipers, with the addition of a new, two-piece, ankle and driveway-friendly splitter design. In a tip of the hat to the longevity of the splitter elements, each includes a replaceable rubbing strip. The tall rear spoiler includes a cut-out to help rearward visibility, but the view out of the hatch has gone from passable to barely usable.

Acceleration, both on the circuit and from a standing start, is breathtaking. SRT quotes a 0-62mph time in the low-3.0sec range, and forward thrust remains raw and brutal but a drag racer this is not. Instead, the TA was designed to help its driver extract the best possible time around a circuit, lap after lap.

The soft, steamroller-width Corsa tyres deliver virtually limitless grip. Turn-in response is sharp, directional changes immediate and steering feel is well above average for this hydraulically-assisted system.

While cornering, the chassis maintains a predominately neutral balance, and even this 1538 kg thriller can be flicked in to turns, drifted and caught confidently. Power oversteer is available, but only with highly aggressive throttle inputs.

The TA’s aerodyanmics help. According to SRT, downforce is up 600 percent at 150 mph, although those improvements in downforce also markedly increase drag coefficient from, .369 to .433. This results in a 193mph top speed versus the standard car's mind boggling 206mph.

The new brakes feature a new front rotor design from Brembo that increases swept area by 13.5 percent. Pagid supplies a new brake pad shape with a more track-orientated compound. The brakes offer exceptional feel and modulation, and so much stopping power that maximum braking demands the use of six-point race belts. Thankfully, the seats were designed to accommodate them.

As ultra-high-performance cars become filled with more layers of tech, the Viper TA stands alone, a beacon of sorts, representing all that is good in a track-day special

But the aero, suspension, and alignment changes tame this Viper – to a degree.

The SRT Viper TA is a straightforward package with epic power, tremendous grip and sharp steering and dynamics that lend the driver confidence to explore the car's – and their own – limits.

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