Kumho Tires Assist Cindi's ALMS GT2 Debut

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA. - The Kumho-shod Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper Competition Coupe finished 7th in the GT2 class at Saturday’s American Le Mans Series Acura Sportscar Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car course. The car, driven by Stan Wilson and Cindi Lux, finished in front of a trio of Porsche 911s and a Panoz Esperante in the tough GT2 field.

The car ran well throughout the race but had to spend about 15 minutes behind the wall to repair a loose power steering fitting. Without that mishap, the team had a shot at a top-five finish.

The team did not experience any tire failures or issues during the race. Rudy Consolacion, motorsports manager for Kumho Tire U.S.A., attributed that to the company’s approach for its first ALMS GT2 tire.  “The tire we developed for this race was a little more conservative than we needed,” he said. “The wear was excellent and grip was decent. We pulled a lot of data from the tires we build for the Japan GT Championship, so we weren’t starting from scratch. We learned a lot and hope to build on this for next year.”

After the race, Lux and Wilson answered questions about the ALMS, the Viper and the Kumho tires.

What was it like coming into the competitive GT2 class for the first time with this car?
Lux: It’s nice to be here. I think this will whet our appetite for more. It can be challenging to bring a new car into a series, but it was nice to have it covered from the tire standpoint. Stan and I are so familiar with Kumho products. I don’t run Michelins or Dunlops, so I’m not familiar with those tires and am not familiar with their products. Running on Kumhos was like slipping on a pair of comfortable shoes. The tires worked great throughout the race, and on a 3100-pound car, that’s a lot to ask. The tires were stellar.

Wilson: I think it speaks volumes about the tires because we basically took a World Challenge car and  removed the restrictor and installed slightly bigger brakes. It was the heaviest car in the GT2 class, but because of the Kumhos we actually weren’t that far off the pace.

How did the team prepare for this event?
Lux: We said coming in that this would be an extended test, and we learned a little bit more about what works and what doesn’t work. But you have that in motorsports. Sometimes you have to take two steps backwards to gain three forward, and we kind of did that Friday morning. Stan and I agreed that we needed a setup that would be good for the long run. One of the things we were pleased to learn was that the car just got faster and faster and faster during qualifying. The tires were coming in more and more each lap. The car was much more drivable the more laps we put on the tires. The car isn’t set up yet to get the maximum out of the tires. Long term, we need to get there. But for this weekend, it was very encouraging.

Wilson: We had two short tests before the race, but I think Friday was the first day we truly got the tires into their operating temperature range, and the grip just got better and better.

What was it like running with the P1 and P2 cars for the first time?
Wilson: It was spooky. All of a sudden you’re going into a corner, and you’ve checked your mirrors in the braking zone. Then you do that one last check just to make sure before you turn in and you’re like, whoa! That thing just appeared right next to me. You can’t hear the Audis because they’re so quiet.

{mosimage}What was your strategy for race day?
Lux: We knew we weren’t going to be the fastest kids on the block. We just wanted to keep chipping away laps and see what happened. The qualifying pace that we ran we could do for 12 hours. There weren’t any scary moments.

You’ve both had a lot of success in SCCA Club Racing on Kumho’s ECSTA  V710 DOT competition tire. How did the GT2 race tires compare with the V710.
Lux: There are differences, but there are very similar handling characteristics between the two tires. It’s nice to have the experience on the V710s before going to these tires because they have similar personalities. The GT2 tires are a little bit more severe and a little more progressive.

Wilson: The V710 is kind of like the kid brother to this tire. The R tire has consistency like you see in the V710, and you see the degrees of progression in the way the life cycle happens. But the most impressive thing is that the R tire does everything the V710 does, just better.

What kind of reaction did you get from the fans this weekend?
Lux: It was freaky! But it wasn’t just the Viper fans. The comment we heard the most—even from Corvette fans, who can’t stand the Vipers—is ‘we’re glad you’re back.’ People also told us they’re glad to see Kumho on a production-based racecar.

Wilson: I think having Kumhos on the car is a perfect match. People came up and said ‘I looked inside your car and it looks like a streetcar. You’ve got a blinker stalk. You’ve got a headlight switch. It’s the most stock car that’s out here.’ And I told them yeah, and with the Kumhos on it, it’s holding its own against honest to goodness full blown racecars. The Viper Competition Coupe has got to be the most bang for the buck in the GT2 class.

What were your expectations coming into this weekend?
Lux: We had no expectations on a finishing position. Our goal was to bring the car home in one piece and finish the race. That truly was our mission for this race. To end up where we did (seventh), it shows that this car can hunt. It just needs a little bit more development work.

Wilson: I didn’t really see this result out of the car this soon. Our goal was to do a good job representing Dodge, Kumho and Woodhouse Performance, and I think we did that.
The tires performed really well. The track changed today and there was more understeer, but we could run the same times lap after lap. If we can get a little weight out of the Viper, it will brake better and transition better and I think it will be a fantastic GT2 car.