Mark Kirby ordered his 1996 Viper coupe before they were in production. He put his name on a list, probably wrote a sizeable check in good faith, and then he waited. And waited. When he finally took delivery, he was one of the first owners of a Viper coupe in Daytona blue with white stripes splashed down the center of it.

“I bought it new here in Kansas City,” he said. “I ordered it and waited probably a couple of years for it. I put my name in probably a couple of years before I got it. I paid sticker for it. I think it was $72,000.”


He drove it for a couple of years on the street and decided it wasn’t much fun because he couldn’t drive the car as fast as it would go without endangering himself or others. Like many NASA racers, he started out doing track days. Of course, he bought sticky tires and wheels for the track, and began experimenting with brake pads. It was during this experimentation that he wadded it up at Mid America Motorplex about 12 years ago.

“I had some pads on the front I wanted to use up. They weren’t too great and I had these other pads that didn’t have near the bite, so I put those on the front without changing the rear pads, so I had too much rear brake and the darn rear wheels locked going into the first turn and hit the wall and bounced off of that and back across the track,” said Kirby, who is originally from North Carolina and has the accent to match. “It was a big mess.


“I wasn’t even braking that hard,” he added. “It was the first lap, and the darn rear end locked, and it snapped so fast, and the rear end of the car was into the wall immediately, and that was that. I was really discouraged. That was terrible.”

But he had insurance on the car and it paid for the repairs. Kirby took the car to Woodhouse Performance in Blair, Neb., a shop with a lot of experience racing Vipers in World Challenge. Woodhouse Performance fixed the crash damage and turned his street Viper into the racecar it is today.


“That was probably 12 years ago, maybe more,” he continued. “The insurance companies weren’t on to the track day thing, and they didn’t really know. They asked where it happened, what happened, the whole deal. It was completely legitimate as far as being on the track and getting wrecked. And a year or two after that, they cut that out in a hurry.”

In its current status, Kirby’s Viper has a stock engine from a salvage yard. It gets him around the track quickly enough and he has been successful in ST1, but he’s having another engine built at Exotic Engine Development in Reno, Nev. He won’t provide horsepower figures, but count on increased compression, cylinder head work and upgraded valvetrain components, more camshaft, balancing and blueprinting and a semidry-sump oiling system.


“It’ll be good to get that back in there because I’m kind of disadvantaged with that stock junkyard motor in there,” he said, adding that the motor should arrive by about the time you read this story. “I’m having to work too hard.”

His crew chief Dave Jones said he enjoys working with Kirby because he provides good feedback about what the car is doing and is receptive to his input. According to Jones, Kirby also can get a lot out of the car.


“Mark is one of those guys who’s easy to work with, and he’s fast,” Jones said. “It’s not about how fast you go. It’s about how little you slow down.”

Kirby won the ST races Saturday and Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka against another Viper, which belongs to his next door neighbor, and a Z06 Corvette, each of which had a horsepower advantage.

Kirby and Jones have continued to develop the car over the years, with aero bits such as a front splitter that extends nearly 5 feet under the front of the car, louvers added to the clamshell hood and a large rear wing.


“That car is notoriously is kind of a pushy car,” he said. “It doesn’t have any problem putting the power down, but it’s the front end that gives out first, so we’re trying to get all the downforce we can on the nose of that thing to make the front stick.

“People think that car is a nose-heavy car, but it’s really not,” he added. “I’ve really actually got more weight on the rear than on the front. People think with that big V-10 motor and just figure it’s going to be nose-heavy, but you look at the motor and it’s set way back past the front axle.”

Kirby lives in Kansas City, so he races with NASA Central, but he gets around to other regions. In the last month or so, he’s raced it at Heartland Park Topeka and Putnam Park Road Course just outside Indianapolis. In short, he gets lots of seat time, and with a fresh engine, he’ll be a force in the Midwest.


“I’d like to do the NASA National Championships, but that car of mine is old. It’s 14 years old and I’m up against — in that class — a lot of really, really good cars,” he said. “I think I can compete with those better cars if I can get the good motor in there.”


3,200 lbs. w/driver


8.0-liter V-10, 420 wheel horsepower


Front: Moton shocks, Eibach springs with stock sway bars

Rear: Moton shocks, Eibach springs with stock sway bars


335-30-ZR18 Hoosier A6


Front: StopTech, Raybestos pads

Rear: StopTech, Raybestos pads

Data Acquisition: 

Race Technology DL1 plus video


Dave Kirby’s back pocket
Topeka1081 Topeka1110 Topeka1122
Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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