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Dodge SRT-10 streaks to truck speed record

April 16, 2004|by TIM SPELL/Motor Matters

A thunderbolt cracked the frigid air at DaimlerChrysler's proving grounds in Chelsea, Mich. The rumble echoed from the exhaust pipes of Dodge's 2004 Ram SRT-10 pickup as it set the Guinness World Record as the "World's Fastest Production Pickup Truck."

Among those in the small crowd intently watching the time clock was Hein Le Roux, research team member at Guinness World Records. Le Roux had flown from the company's London office to witness the all-American truck's successful run. He certified the SRT-10 achieved an official average speed of 154.587 mph.

The average speed was calculated by two-lap, both-direction runs of a 4.71-mile oval. The Sports Car Club of America recorded the times on the straightaway over a "flying kilometer," which equals about six-tenths of a mile.

"It's the fastest truck you can go out and buy," Le Roux said. "It's as if you had gone to a dealer, bought it yourself and gone straight down to the track. We don't allow modifications of any kind."

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Dodge used Viper V-10 thunder to trump Ford's SVT F-150 Lightning's previous record of 147.54 mph, which was set last summer. The SRT-10's 8.3-liter V-10 cranks out 500 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 525 foot-pounds of torque 4,200 rpm.

Race-car driver Brendan Gaughan, who piloted the SRT-10 to the record-setting pace, was impressed with the pickup's V-10 muscle and hulking, "real-truck" body.

"This isn't some lightweight truck that they stuck a mean motor in and made it light so it could go fast," Gaughan said. "It's a 5,100-pound pickup truck. This is a heavy, steel-bodied truck with a big, bad motor."

Pushing the SRT-10's giant form through wind gusts encountered in one of the lap directions was the greatest challenge, Gaughan said. "This is a big-nosed, big-bodied truck," he said. "Those gusts can slow you down over a mile an hour."

Gaughan, who had driven a Dodge Ram to six wins in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, tried an unconventional approach to combating the wind. He cranked up the SRT-10's 500-watt sound system, and had the massive subwoofer thumping out music as he blasted through the flying kilo.

Gaughan had great confidence the pickup could register record-breaking numbers into the wind, but had concerns about the track, which had a foot of snow on the top lane a week earlier, being properly cleared. Shortly before the run, a crew equipped with sweepers and jet dryers managed to rid the ice stubbornly clinging to the south turn.

When Dodge announced it would build the SRT-10, there was speculation a light-in-the-rear pickup could get unstable with V-10 power sent in heavy portions to the rear wheels. Gaughan said instability wasn't an issue during the runs. "It never jumps out," he said. "It never even thought about getting loose."

Herb Helbig, Street and Racing Technology engineer, said lots of credit for the SRT-10's surefootedness goes to the aerodynamics design team. He said the large wing, perched atop the rear of the cargo box, is a significant contributor to the aero package.

"The wing is working at about 60 mph," Helbig said. "It's helping reduce drag and it's helping create down force. That's what's unique about the wing."

A splitter, mounted low on the front end, also generates down force and decreases drag by directing air around the truck, instead of underneath or through the truck.

Along with the efficient spoilers, a modified suspension system helps keep the SRT-10 firmly planted. To create a lower, more aerodynamic body, the rear leaf springs and axle are flip-flopped - the axle is on top and the leaf springs are on the bottom. Also helping the pickup handle the stress of high-performance driving are stiffer, performance-tuned springs and Bilstein mono-tube shocks.

The SRT-10's 22-inch Pirelli Scorpion Zero 305/40YR-22 high-performance tires are inflated with standard pressure, he said, but the driver has to build a little heat into them to achieve maximum traction in the cold conditions.

For the most part, Helbig said, cold weather works in the SRT-10's favor.

"It's overcast and it's cold," he said, "which is good for making power in the motor." The V-10 generated enough power to push the Ram to 155.132 mph on one of its laps. Gaughan said the SRT-10's record-breaking feat won't satisfy the push-it-to-the-limits SRT team.

"In a year or two those guys will come back and say, 'This isn't good enough,'" he said, "and be back here with an SRT-12 or something."

Tim Spell is the automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.

© Motor Matters, 2004

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