I’ll Show You What Nobody Else Will About The Viper ACR

I was an unusually busy bee the night after I drove the Viper ACR at Virginia International Raceway. Wrote three reviews of the car. Two are up now, one had a longer editing and visual-content process than the other two and it’s going up tomorrow. But I want to talk about something that has me thinking: laptimes.

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You can read my writeup on the car for R&T here and you can find my less car-guy-oriented opinion of the car at TTAC. My third review, for WIRED, comes out tomorrow. It’s also my debut at that particular publication, about which I am very pleased.

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Both here and at TTAC, you will see something that none of the other nineteen journalists at the press preview are willing to show you: a complete lap of the track. Although every single person I saw in attendance had at least one GoPro and seven of the aforementioned nineteen had full-time camera/video people on staff, nobody but me is willing to show the video. Why is that?

Well, note that I am running about 2:56-2:59 in all three of my videos. (WIRED hasn’t put theirs up yet; it’s the fastest one because I had some aerodynamic adjustments made to my car before I took it.) For the Grand Course, that’s pretty quick. But it is not as quick as the 2:49.98 set by Car and Driver during their Lightning Lap last year. The same fellow who does the Lightning Laps, the rapid and cheerful Tony Quiroga, was a drive mate of mine last week, and he had the means to record time, but if you read his writeup you will note that he declines to provide a laptime, although he drove the same cars I did and had the equipment to do it.

So, a few possibilities:

0. C/D fakes their Lightning Lap times. I don’t want to believe that and I think that some of the guys on the staff have too much integrity to let that happen.

1. The Viper ACR is slower than the Viper TA. I don’t think that’s the case either. True, the TA would run away on the front straight of VIR, but everywhere else the ACR should have the edge.

2. The circumstances of our drive were not ideal. Well, that’s certainly the case. We had instructors in the car, we were under a request to use as little curb as possible, and we were asked to be careful with the cars. That costs a lot of time. If you know your career as a journalist is over the minute you scrape the car, you won’t push for the maximum time. I could have taken a lot of time off were I allowed to run the car aggressively and take some risks.

I am the only driver out of 20 journalists willing to publish a full lap video. Why, exactly, is that? Surely some of the big names in the business (like Randy Pobst and Andy Lally, both of whom showed up) are at least as fast as I am around a racetrack, right? So why not? I have my theories, but I’d be interested in hearing yours before I discuss my thoughts…

25 Replies to “I’ll Show You What Nobody Else Will About The Viper ACR”

  1. sightline

    Spitballing here, but a gentlemen’s agreement not to get into a pissing match over driver skill? If you’re good, you’re good, but if you’re mediocre, you’ll lose credibility for the track portions of the tests, so everyone kind of nods and agrees not to throw down the evidence that demonstrates which journalists aren’t very good on a track?

    (It personally doesn’t matter to me because 1) I’m not going to track my cars for a variety of reasons, even my weekend-toy 964 and 2) I cheerfully admit I don’t have the skill to push a car anywhere, which I cheerfully admit. To me, it’s like reading a Stereophile review that tries to highlight the differences between two 50k amps…I’m sure there are, but it’s not like I’m ever going to be able to notice. So I read reviews for entertainment.)

    Reply
  2. arbuckle

    “C/D fakes their Lightning Lap times. I don’t want to believe that and I think that some of the guys on the staff have too much integrity to let that happen.”

    Well you know those guys better than I do but I would be assuming this one.

    Reply
  3. Power6

    This is totally going to sound like a dig I know, but the answer to your question is those other drivers, at least the ones that are good, are acting professional and you are not.

    What do you have to prove by publishing a compromised lap time? It is completely meaningless. Randy Pobst knows that.

    You know what pointless discussions ensue from any proper lap testing like the lightning lap, forget if you start posting lap times from journalist events…It’s just not worth all the asterisks and foot notes that go along with it.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Okay, let’s run with that. What’s unprofessional about showing people video of a car they want to see?

      Reply
      • Power6

        Oh showing is good, I like seeing the video. If a viewer can time the lap themselves so be it. Its just when you say “hey I ran a XX:XX in this car on this track” you are opening up a can of Internet worms. Maybe its a casual lap for you and a throw away time, but the audience won’t take it that way. It will be “fastest lap possible at VIR in a Viper ACR is 2:56”.

        Its like my daughters day care, when there is scuffle they tell me “another friend bit her” they don’t tell me who it is. Of course she tells me who it was. But the center isn’t going to engage in that conversation, its not their place to discuss.

        To me “2:56 lap at press event where we were told to ease off a bit” is like “Worlds tallest midget”. Its a moo point man, like a cow’s opinion.

        Reply
  4. SCS

    Sorry, but I don’t even own a GoPro. A Polaroid, yes, but no GoPro. So what you are writing maybe applies to the 18 other journalists, but not everybody.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Ok, but every phone on the market will give you an approximate laptime. You’re a shoe… were you curious as to how fast you were?

      P.S. Polaroid is back in style.

      Reply
      • SCS

        Probably, but trying to flip open my Tracfone during a lap is tough. Mostly, though, I have a little time on the VIR Full course, but none on the Grand, and I was pretty chastened to see that’s what we were using, as I’d never seen it before. Takes me forever to learn a new course, especially in somebody else’s car. My hard drive is too full of Domingo Samudio lyrics. Did notice Chris, the development driver — who they said is actually quicker than Eric, who I think you and I both have ridden with and raced against — knocked out a 1:59 on the Full in the GRM Challenge. That would have been a nice benchmark.Bottom line: I have a new “if I had the money” car.

        Reply
  5. E. Bryant

    Doesn’t C&D have complete videos from at least some of the Lightning Lap sessions? That would seem to disprove any conspiracies (as would the fact that their limited number of laps typically results in times that are substantially slower than the claims of certain manufacturers, who have the advantage of cherry-picking the best time from thousands of laps).

    I also believe that K.C. Colwell has run some of the faster Lightning Laps.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      That’s fascinating to watch and it reminds me that the LL is in fact a single lap and not a fast lap in a race where you have to keep some tire under the car.

      Very fast hands but it makes for a great video!

      Reply
      • E. Bryant

        The posted Lightning Lap time is the best flying lap of five, if I recall correctly – roughly 15 minutes of running plus whatever warm-up laps are applied. I don’t think that the single-fastest lap competition is something that is generally considered as indicative of how kind the vehicle and driver are to the tires, although the session is certainly long enough where a ham-fisted driver could overheat the rubber.

        I believe that C&D has fessed-up to things like using multiple sets of tires to set the fastest times with cars such as the 918. At $2500ish for a set of Pilot Sport Cups, it’s probably fair to discuss the real-world relevance of such testing.

        Reply
  6. Dr. Doug

    I would much prefer to read your brilliant writing, which is so unique, provocative, brave and irreverent that your future is rock solid-than to read your obituary that might be a result of your ego driven pursuit of fast lap times.

    Fact: Journalistic success is infinitely more elusive than impressive lap times. The skills required are possessed by far fewer individuals.

    I wanted out of the Viper in the video well before the lap wa

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  7. Dr. Doug

    Shoot- was cut off above.

    I wanted out of the Viper well before the lap was over. The speed was mind blowing, and the risk was way out of my comfort level. The fact that you were actually feeling the car was enough for me. Near-limit is all most readers need to get the sense of the car’s dynamics. And you describe things so well I get immense vicarious sensation as it is.

    Please pursue your singular, superlative talent at writing, survive as long as possible, and enjoy your fame as an incredibly enjoyable, fresh writer on a wide range of topics. Focusing on how you stack up against also-ran writers and mid-level professional drivers is misplaced energy.

    Let Jack be Jack/not Senna

    Reply
  8. Chris Tonn

    “..egotistical priaprism..”

    I bow before thee, Mr. Baruth. Reading the [i]Wired[/i] piece now, and I know I’ll likely never approach your literary skills.

    Reply
  9. Shaolin Six Sigma

    Driving a track for the first time, in a car you’re driving for the first time, with a manufacturer’s rep in the passenger seat, will not make for a lap that one is proud of. Even for a pro.

    I’d also guess that the aero package on the ACR also creates the problem of “the slower you go, the slower the car is” – most drivers need several laps to work up to the level of commitment to corner entry speed that is required on a car with a (potential) half-ton of downforce.

    Reply
  10. Domestic Hearse

    Unless it’s a manufacturer’s official, timed, staffed, orchestrated time trial run, perhaps the OEMs would rather journo-experience laps remain subjective and descriptive, rather than objective/impartial for matters of clarity and competitive comparison.

    Otherwise it becomes a contest between publications, rather than a suite of positive reviews of said performance vehicle (Our guy is faster than your guy, rather than: This car is great!). And then somehow, these unofficial times become gospel, like how some say the Koenigggggsseeegggggggggg is the fastest car in the world because The Stig used it to set the best lap time on an abandoned airfield.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Just watched the video. It’s fascinating, but you’ll notice three things:

      0. They chose to do it from the end of pit lane instead of from the roll, to prevent making it possible to take a laptime.
      1. They cut the video off at least three seconds off before Andy crosses the finish line…
      2. and they edit it to skip a few hundred feet, moving the car from BEFORE the paddock garages at the 3:00 mark to 200 feet AFTER the paddock garages at the 3:01 mark. Basically the video “disappears” seven seconds from the lap.

      So Andy basically ran a 3:06 from a dig which makes me feel not entirely bad about my laps.

      Reply
      • jstyer

        I was waiting for you to mention items 0 and 2. 🙂 Though I didn’t catch the cut… I would’ve really liked them to post a few flying laps with a decent in car view of Andy+the track. He really seemed to like the car.

        But at the end of the day, all you and your ilk who’ve posted videos about this damn car have done, is make me furiously angry I’m not 5 years further along in my career. The simple fact of the matter is that snatching up an ACR would likely cost me my marriage at this point. These cars will most likely be purchased by old men who won’t use them, but also won’t sell them. It’s the first new car to truly excite me in a long time… I’m legitimately sad I’m going to miss it.

        Reply
  11. skitter

    I third the motion of Power Six and Shaolin Six Sigma. For a professional driver, laptimes matter, and a compromised laptime will follow them around without any context. Numbers are definitive even when they shouldn’t be. They’re not going damage their careers by publishing an excuse-laden time and then bench racing. Their job is to do it for real.

    Reply

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