Attack Of The Cones: The Story Of How I Broke My Viper

On July 19th, I took my Viper for a HPDE track event at The Ridge race track hosted by Hooked on Driving.

For the first four sessions of the day, an instructor rode along with me while providing input on how to do a better job driving around the track. By the end of the day they were confident enough in my quick progress that they signed off for me to solo drive.

The fifth session of the day was a mixed session with both group A (beginners like me) and group B (people who had a few events under their belt, I would have been B at the next event). I considered skipping it as it was the end of the long day, but decided not to since I wanted to make sure to get the most out of all of the money that I had spent in order to be there. This turned out to be my first mistake.

The second mistake was going out solo instead of continuing to have an instructor ride along with me. I was overconfident in my skills when clearly I was still a major novice who was just making good progress.

The third mistake was lifting off of the gas in the middle of a small corner in order to begin getting ready to start braking for an upcoming sharp corner. This turned out to be the critical mistake and I paid for it.

I was recording the day with two GoPro video cameras and caught the mistake from two angles:

One of those three cones I hit jammed up under my bumper, breaking it and pushing up far enough to actually bend my air conditioning condenser and break my power steering cooler, spraying power steering fluid all over the front of my car. While it could have been worse (I was headed for that barrier before I caught the slide), it still majorly sucks.

Even worse is that while I bought insurance for the day ($300! ouch), I found out today that the deductible is 15% of the total insured value which is in this case $7500. That means that the insurance won’t cover this $3000-4000 worth of damage. Ouch.

So while I had a ton of fun at the track before the accident, this turned out to be a really shitty two weeks. 🙁

I’m done taking this car to the track as I just love it too much to risk further, and expensive, damage to it. I’d rather just have a bit less fun with it on the street instead. If I do get the track bug again, then I’ll look into buying a cheap track car and drive that instead.

11 thoughts on “Attack Of The Cones: The Story Of How I Broke My Viper

  1. From the side view the barrier looks pretty close! Good for you to keep your head on you during.

    It’s strong of you to share your mistake so openly.

    I wonder if there is a better cone design.

  2. Hey Alex

    Graham Henckel here – sorry you had an ‘off’ in the Viper; these things do happen in racing. Seriously! Don’t feel bad, it’s a small blip in the ‘things that went wrong’ folder of life, but what a great memory! Seriously, you off’ed a Viper and lived to tell your grand children about it! 😉 20 years from now, this fish story will grow and grow 😉

    All of us track rats have had ‘offs’; if you don’t, then you’re not exploring the limits of your car and the track truthfully.

    But for those for whom a total ‘write-off’ is too much to fathom, then consider entering an Autocross instead of the big track days. It is much safer on the car, but can help us all learn low-speed car control. And in a 600+hp Viper, autocrosses can be really fun…. “Watch in amazement, now, as our magician driver turns this car without any steering input!….” You get the picture. Autocrossing Vipers, using the go pedal, is stupid fast and fun!!

    Thanks for buying an American icon, the Viper, and thanks for sharing your great experiences with America’s supercar. Now go drive and enjoy!!

    • Thanks for the comment and reassurance, Graham. It means a lot. 🙂

      I hadn’t really considered Autocross but you raise some really good points. I’ll certainly have to look into it. If nothing else, it’ll tech me more about car control, something which I obviously need and which is always useful in a beast like the Viper.

      I had wanted a Viper since I was just 10 years old in 1994 and feel absolutely blessed to own such an amazing car. You guys did a great job with it.

      Thanks again!

  3. Did you catch it (as to not to hit the barrier) just with braking or did you add any more gas to straighten it ?

  4. That sucks man! Glad you finally got out on the track even though it didn’t end the greatest. Did you at least have fun? 🙂 Looks like you have great racing lines! Hitting all your cone markers, braking points, acceleration was smooth out of the turns. Really well done man!

  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t give up learning.

    Find time to do autocross or learn more on track in another car.

    You’ll end up getting much more of a feel for things and better position yourself to reduce the chances of something similar happening or being able to get out of a situation.

    Have fun

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