It all seemed so promising.
At the 2012 New York Auto Show, a race-prepped SRT Viper slithered onto the stage next to its newly redesigned road-going sibling, wowing journalists and affirming that Chrysler’s sports car was once again ready to take on the world.
Now, Road & Track reports that the factory has declined the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s (ACO) invitation to race at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ACO is the body that organizes Le Mans, the most prestigious event on the international racing calendar.
In a statement, SRT President and CEO Ralph Gilles said the team would skip Le Mans this year to concentrate on the Tudor United SportsCar Championship (USCC) series in the U.S. He didn’t explain why, or give any indication that the Viper would return to France next year.
The decision seems rather abrupt considering that the Viper factory team returned to Le Mans only last year, after an 11-year hiatus.
The Viper first appeared at Le Mans in 1996, and took three consecutive class wins between 1998 and 2000.
For 2014, the venomous sports car was supposed to race in GTE-Pro, the top class for production-based cars.
While it wouldn’t be mixing it up with the prototypes from Audi, Porsche, and Toyota for the overall win, the Viper would have competed against racing versions of the same cars it battles in the showroom, including Chevrolet’s all-new Corvette C7.R.
The SRT Viper team currently ranks third in the Tudor USCC, which is in its debut season. Vipers finished third at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and second at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
This hasn’t been a good year for the Viper so far. News of the withdrawal from Le Mans comes shortly after Chrysler announced it would temporarily shut down Viper production due to slow sales.
If you’re keen to keep up on 2014 Le Mans news, make sure to visit our 24 Hours of Le Mans topics page for all the latest, which will culminate in our coverage of the race from Le Mans itself in June.