And while some of the vehicles and faces may change, the concept remains the same - to pit the finest European tuners against one another to see who emerges victorious.
In an arduous battle of muscle and endurance, contestants must compete on the dyno, drag strip and road course. And, for the first time, every entrant made it through all three disciplines.
While we like to think of the Tuner GP as a competition, it's actually more of a shop window. With few cars built to the same specification, we encourage the teams to highlight their engine and chassis tuning abilities. The idea is to show you not only what these modifications are capable of, but also how they stack up against other options.
So if you're thinking about buying a new car and wondering what has the most tuning potential within your budget, these machines should give you a good indication of what's possible.
ECGP is a test of speed, power and poise. We scrutinize the cars on the dyno for outright power and torque, on the dragstrip for power and traction, and finally the road course to examine how the package performs under pressure.
We split the cars into front-, rear- and all-wheel drive classes, with all the cars falling neatly into those categories. Last year's Time Attack and electric vehicle classes weren't needed in 2013, since each team brought more conventional machines based on street cars.
The reason for the Continental Tire provision is that many teams found an advantage in the past with tire choice, which put cars on regular street tires in the slow lane. And while we like to encourage the teams to exploit every avenue to make their cars faster, including drafting in pro drivers if necessary, the tire situation needed to be resolved. The different tire choices were masking the influence of the tuning, so we decided to supply ExtremeContact DW rubber (see sidebar) to concentrate on the engine and suspension work.
Divided into three days of competition, the first was spent on the dyno at Church Automotive Testing in Wilmington, CA. Each team was allowed three pulls to ensure the ECUs had adapted and to check for potential problems. As we said, there's no tuning allowed between runs, but faults, blown hoses, etc, can be rectified.
The drag racing took place on the front straight at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA. The facility has its own light tree and timing beams to ensure accurate results. With an unprepared surface, slight uphill climb and only run over 1000ft to ensure a safe braking zone before Turn 1, these results aren't comparable with conventional quarter-mile times but could be used to assess each vehicle on the day.
And while the Tuner GP pits teams against each other, we have to acknowledge the generous spirit and camaraderie among the competitors. Teams would offer help and loan tools to ensure that everybody was able to compete at the highest level. It's a pleasure to spend time with these guys and we'd like to thank them for taking part in our event.
That said, we wanted to reward excellence, so the class winner of each discipline was awarded a plaque, along with a special trophy for the overall event winner.
Turn the page to discover you how each team fared on the three days. We also have team profiles, car spec and the overall results for you to fully understand what went into building these amazing cars, and how they fared in ECGP13.
Continental - ExtremeContact DW Tires
With such high-performance cars, it was important that we selected tires capable of meeting the requirements, rather than leaving the competitors sliding off the track. Fortunately, we were fortunate enough to establish a relationship with Continental Tires several years ago, and we've stuck with them ever since.
The ExtremeContact DW is considered an ultra-high performance street tire. It's well suited to modified street cars, yet also able to withstand the considerable abuse from drag racing and a full track day. In fact, these tires have allowed the competitors to set some very fast times that are comparable to dedicated race rubber.
We approached Continental back in 2009 about using its DW tires after a group test we conducted at eurotuner magazine with Tire Rack. Against ten rivals, the DW was found to be the best high-performance tires for both wet and dry conditions, offering good braking performance and turn-in grip.
Although we didn't need the DW's wet weather abilities, the GP competitors appreciated the high levels of predictable grip. Admittedly, they're not as single-minded as R-compound track tires many of the teams are familiar with, but they quickly learn to adapt to the different compound.
To prove their ability, many drivers continue to use the tires after our event, with some putting them to daily use and continuing to enter track days.
During its construction, Continental ensures the ExtremeContact DW (meaning Dry and Wet) provides both a lower rolling resistance and improved tread life than most of its competitors. It has a 340 UTQG rating, which means they should last many thousands of miles under normal conditions. What's more, there are indicators within the tread blocks to show drivers when the optimum tread depth has been exceeded for both dry and wet conditions.
As the first event of the Tuner GP, the dyno is always a tense affair. It's where the teams first meet their opponents and learn what they've brought to the battle. It's also where we discover who's packing the biggest punch and predictions are made for the track events.
One surprise was the absence of any cars in the Time Attack class. Last year, the track day was dominated by thinly disguised racecars, but ECGP13 was all about modified road cars. Admittedly, some were heavily modified, with stripped interiors, motorsport suspension and brakes plus superchargers or turbo conversions, but every car was more or less road legal.
In the past, the dyno day has been a feat of endurance. Sweltering in hot temps as each vehicle gets three pulls to find its zenith. However, the process was significantly simplified last year when we first moved to Church Automotive Testing in Wilmington, CA at the invitation of owner, Shawn Church.
In the past, testing this many cars was an all-day business, but Church's three Dynapack dynos bolt to the hubs ensuring consistency and accuracy. It's also removed all the controversy and arguing from the process since there's no chance of wheel slip, etc.
The Church team is amazingly efficient, bolting on the packs, wiring up the sensors and positioning the cooling fans in a few minutes. So while our selection of 11 Tuner GP contestants might have taken a full day in the past, for 2013 we were done in less than four hours.
With three Dynapacks, it's possible to run an AWD car in one cell, while a 2WD car is being prepared for testing. And the only problems we encountered last year were with traction control and automatic transmissions. However, Shawn and his team are very familiar with all the systems and quickly had each car running smoothly.
Like last year, the weather was hotter than usual for late September, which affected some of the later runners, but there wasn't a huge disadvantage thanks to the fans and the quick pulls. Most cars were tested before they suffered too much heat soak, and ice or nitrous was allowed to cool the intake if a team chose to.
As mentioned, up to three runs were allowed. This was mainly to ensure the cars had adapted to the dyno. We then record the best results here. In the past, we've considered taking an average of the runs but the Tuner GP is all about excellence. And since the Dynapack can't produce wheelspin, the numbers recorded should be an accurate measurement of what each engine was capable of. In fact, without the drag of tires on a roller, the Dynapacks tended to read slightly high, surprising several teams with more power than expected.
We're essentially starting in reverse order since the FWD class also had the smallest engines, but we were keen to see what each tuner had extracted from the 2.0T engine in their car.
Starting with the Revo Technik VW GTI, the tuner had shipped the car from its HQ in West Virginia, so we were delighted to have it compete. The TSI motor was fitted with Revo's K04 big turbo kit plus a Eurojet FMIC and 3" turbo-back exhaust with Revo's stage 3 software making it work in unison. Expectations were around 340hp but the Dynapack spun round to reveal 355hp and 366 lb-ft of torque, which brought a smile.
The second contender for FWD honors was the Ford Focus ST we built for SEMA 2012 with FSWerks and LTMotorwerks. Resplendent in its Porsche GT3 RS grey paint, and with Porsche wheels plus custom carbon spoilers, the Focus looked right at home with its European counterparts.
Entered into the Tuner GP by FSWerks (the Ford tuning division of VW/Audi specialist Euro Sport Accessories), the four-cylinder motor boasted an FSWerks intake, downpipe, exhaust system and software, plus a Forge Motorsport FMIC. However, the stock turbo and cat would present a major restriction, limiting output to 289hp, but with 390 lb-ft of torque, it should be fast on the track...
This was the biggest category in ECGP13 and would also be the hardest fought throughout the event. And for the first time in its 11-year history we were entering not one but two of our magazine project cars, although neither would be eligible for the class trophies we hand out.
In addition to the Focus ST, we also entered the european car E46 BMW M3. It belongs to Alex Bernstein, who would drive during the drag racing but sensibly handed it over to Michael Essa for the road course.
Fitted with a Maximum PSI stage 1 turbo kit, it had been completed shortly before the event and encountered a few problems on the dyno. The first was a lean mixture at high RPM, which forced the operator to lift off early to avoid a problem. However, it managed to record an astonishing 647hp and 499 lb-ft, which surprised everybody concerned.
In an attempt to save the engine, the boost was turned down for the third run, but it still produced 603hp, which would have kept it in the lead in the RWD class and the second most powerful car overall. However, because we wouldn't be taking home any of our own trophies, the RWD class win was awarded to the Trinity Autosport E92 BMW M3.
This coupe had apparently seen 601hp in a previous dyno test, but 568hp and 384 lb-ft was a great achievement on the day for its VF-Engineering supercharger.
Continuing to descend down the order, the GSR Autosport Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe defied expectations of 460hp from its long-tube headers and software upgrade, turning in a healthy run of 499hp and 471 lb-ft. However, this was almost matched by european auto source, which hit 492hp and 338 lb-ft with the ESS tuning supercharger on the BMW Z4M's 3.2-liter engine. Given the BMW's weight advantage over the Benz, it would be fascinating to see how these two cars would fare on the track.
Coincidentally, Platte Forme AG had decided to abandon its E46 M3 racecar from ECGP12 and enter an almost identical ESS-blown BMW Z4M. However, they had problems developing any horsepower on the dyno, with the power dying off at 6000rpm, where the engine only made 377hp.
After swapping the ignition coils and consulting with EAS and ESS, it appeared the tuner had been supplied with the wrong supercharger pulley, so a new one was bought. Unfortunately, this didn't immediately resolve the issue because the ECU had adapted to the conditions. However, they were able to clear them and the car ran fine for the remaining two days.
After the Tuner GP was completed, Platte Forme returned to Church Automotive and recorded 451hp and 315 lb-ft but these were under different conditions, so we've placed them at the bottom of the results table, yet still wanted to acknowledge what the engine was able to produce.
Last place in the RWD class went to the '85 Porsche 911 Carrera from BBi Autosport. The personal transport of Joey Seely from BBi, we persuaded the company to compete when we discovered Continental couldn't supply the enormous tires needed for its 1000hp Porsche 911 Turbo conversions. However, we were all delighted to see the gorgeous Carrera arrive and were curious to see how it would perform on the dyno.
Equipped with a 3.6L motor from a 964 RS America, it had been rebuilt by BBi with custom cams and 997 GT3 Cup Car titanium rods to allow high revs. Joey's expectation was for under 300hp, and the dyno showed it had 276hp and 256 lb-ft. With its low weight and sports car handling, we were all excited to see how the Porsche would fare on the track...
Despite traveling down from Fremont in Northern California for our Tuner GP, 034 Motorsport is traditionally the first to arrive, and 2013 was no different.
Ready for action, the team sprayed nitrous onto the intercooler and intake before the Audi TT RS began its runs. The tuner had seen power in the 600s before the event but was delighted when the Dynapack revealed a best run of 667hp and 566 lb-ft. This was credited to the APR stage 3 turbo kit, software, intercooler and fuel pump. It also benefited from 034's own downpipe and exhaust system.
So the most successful team in Tuner GP history had thrown down the gauntlet and the other teams would be scrambling to compete on level terms.
However, Eurocode Tuning was also a previous ECGP champion and wouldn't be taking it lying down, despite the loss of their first choice car. The shop's modified 2013 Audi S4 suffered a transmission failure several days before the event, putting their participation in jeopardy. At the last minute, they decided to run the '13 Audi S6 belonging to Tracee Twedell, and we were pleased to see them back.
Fitted with APR software, the big Audi hit 514hp with a healthy 558 lb-ft to put it second in class, but with a big hill to climb if they wanted to beat 034.
Finally, we welcomed newcomers AccuAir. Although not strictly a tuning shop, the air suspension specialists worked with TAG Motorsports in Escondido, CA to prepare an Audi S4 for the event.
This was the same car used in our Air vs Coilover test (EC 11/13) and was designed to showcase AccuAir's Sport suspension kit. They'd be putting it to the ultimate test on the road course, seeing if it could live with the coil-sprung opposition under the spotlight of competition.
For the dyno day, the S4 was fitted with an AWE Tuning supercharger pulley, intake, downpipe and exhaust. This allowed it to produce 387hp and 353 lb-ft despite some DSG and traction control issues preventing it from realizing its full potential.
So with all 11 cars tested, the teams went home to make final preparations for two days of track action, starting with the drag racing...
Church Automotive Testing
When we're organizing the Tuner GP, one of the biggest debates used to center around the choice of dyno. Some shops prefer a Mustang dyno, others like the Dynojet. Each has its benefits but we've come to love the bolt-on Dynapack option because it eliminates issues such as wheelspin, alignment losses and tire inflation. It also overcomes the small differences in mass and inertia between different wheel and tire options, creating a level playing field for a comparison event such as ours.
The Dynapack places load on the engine using electrical or hydraulic pressure. This should make it easier to replicate real world conditions and better able to measure changes in output.
Shawn Church works on a huge variety of machinery, from Civic to Cadillac, and was well versed in all the machinery that arrived. So if you're in the Los Angeles or Long Beach area and need a very experienced performance test and diagnostic center, visit Church Automotive Testing.
|034 Motorsport||'12 Audi TT RS||AWD||667||565.7|
|european Car||'03 BMW M3||RWD||647||498.8|
|Trinity Autosport||'08 BMW M3||RWD||568.1||383.9|
|Eurocode Tuning||'13 Audi S6||AWD||514||558|
|GSR Autosport||'12 Mercedes C63 AMG||RWD||499||471|
|european auto source||'08 BMW Z4M||RWD||492||338|
|AccuAir||'13 Audi S4||AWD||387.5||353.1|
|Revo Technik||'12 VW GTI||FWD||355.3||366.2|
|FSWerks||'13 Ford Focus ST||FWD||288.75||390|
|BBi Autosport||'85 Porsche 911||RWD||276.3||255.8|
|Platte Forme||'06 BMW Z4M||RWD||451||315|
Drag Racing at Willow Springs Raceway
Admittedly, this isn't the ideal setup since it's neither the correct 1320ft for a quarter-mile, nor is it a prepared surface and actually runs uphill slightly. So while these numbers aren't comparable to other drag racing times, they serve as a consistent measurement for our purposes.
Again, the cars were split into their respective classes (front-, rear- and all-wheel drive) and let loose for the best part of 3.5 hours. There was a burnout box in the pitlane before you turned onto the main straight to make your run. Competitors could run as often or as little as they wanted, ideally stopping before anything broke. We would be looking for each car's fastest time of the day, and that's what you see here.
At this year's Tuner GP, the drag times inevitably reflected horsepower and traction, with almost no surprises thrown up. In fact, you could almost predict the finishing positions based on the dyno numbers and the drivetrain. So it probably won't come as a shock to many people to see these powerful front-wheel drive cars at the bottom of the list, struggling for traction.
The best performance in this category came from the Revo Technik GTI, which spun its wheels for a great deal of its 11.6sec run, crossing the line at 101mph. It's nice to know you could challenge an older 911 with this street-tuned VW. However, the FSWerks Focus ST fared less well, running the course in 12sec at 92mph.
What is remarkable is that the Ford completed 13 runs, all within 0.2sec of each other, despite it having a manual transmission. We saw similar feats performed by cars with dual-clutch autos and launch control, so Vik Kazanjian's consistency behind the wheel was remarkable. Similarly, Robin Roemisch from Revo Technik ran 11 times within 0.3sec of each other.
The winner in this class was anybody's guess, but a trio of supercharged BMWs, including the pair of Z4Ms, looked likely candidates. However, we couldn't overlook our own M3 turbo, which had shown tremendous fortitude on the dyno, provided it could find traction. The Merc was an outside bet for top honours but a Porsche win seemed unlikely as well.
And as predicted, it fell to the two Z4M to battle for the win, with european auto source taking it by the narrowest margin. In fact, the time of 10.583sec at 107mph was barely 0.2sec quicker than Platte Forme. Having found the lost power during the dyno mishap, the Platte Forme crew was out for revenge and ran 10.602 at 105mph.
In their attempt to win, Platte Forme ran 14 times to the 13 by EAS. Again, the drivers were very consistent once they found traction, requiring a few runs to experiment with wheelspin, clutch slip and gear shift points.
The BMW teams also decided to remove the large rear spoilers, which seemed to gain a few fractions of a second. That said, it was a fascinating duel, lasting the entire session and we were pleased to report very little tire wear despite the abuse, leaving them in good shape for the road course.
Crossing the line just behind the Z4s was the GSR Autosport Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe. With its auto transmission, Michael Essa did four runs, all within 0.03sec of each other, so he wisely parked it after setting a time of 10.710 at 105mph. Michael felt there might have been another 0.1sec or so to be found, which would allow him to challenge the BMWs, but he didn't want to risk damaging the car in the process and not showing up for the track day.
Agonizingly close behind was the european car E46 M3 turbo, which ran a best time of 10.753sec at 113mph with Alex at the wheel. The second highest trap speed of the day speaks to the car's traction deficiency. However, it was also suffering boost issues, with the pressure inconsistent on each run. Despite this, it took a few attempts to find the sweet spot, and then the M3 ran consistently a handful of times before it was parked and allowed to cool off.
Nipping at his heels was Joe Yang in his E92 BMW M3 from Trinity Autosport. The best time of 10.9 at 107mph was tantalizingly close to the E46 but, after five runs within 0.05sec of each other, they also decided to call it quits.
Last place in the RWD class fell to Joey Seely from BBi Autopsort. With a severe power deficit in comparison to the other cars in the field, it was going to be an uphill struggle. However, the Porsche performed impressively, putting down a handful of runs that culminated in a best time of 11.1 at 101mph. But with the hint of a clutch problem, Joey decided to head home early and check out the problem in preparation for the track day.
While Christian Miller tackles the road course, company owner Javad Shadzi always takes the wheel of the 034 Motorsport entry for the drag racing. And despite getting lost at the end of the strip, he managed to record a best run of 9.579sec at 118mph. This was the quicker of two runs that would have set the fastest time of the day, and set the standard for the rest of the field.
Launching hard, with all four wheels spinning, the Audi TT RS looked impressive, but we've come to expect that from the 034 crew, who completed a handful of runs before sitting back and waiting to be beaten.
Closest to realizing that scenario was the S6 from Eurocode Tuning. Although a last-minute replacement, the Audi had enough parts in place to make it competitive. And just like the TT, the quattro drivetrain made the most of the Continental tires.
With both Eurocode's Greg Fowler and car owner Tracee Twedell taking turns behind the wheel, the car was consistently in the 9.8sec bracket until an extra push found some extra speed to challenge for the win. With a 9.7sec run it was close, but not close enough...
Considering its relatively low power output, the AccuAir Audi S4 surprised everybody with a series of runs in the mid-10sec bracket. Although the team was anxious to prove its air suspension system on the road course, onlookers were impressed at how the system kept the car remarkably level when it launched. While the front-end on almost every other car would rise as weight was transferred backwards under acceleration, the AccuAir system kept the nose down and the front wheels gripping, helping to set a time of 10.56sec - faster than its 390hp output suggested.
|Team||Car||Class||Time (sec)||Speed (mph)|
|034 Motorsport||'12 Audi TT RS||AWD||9.579||118.20|
|Eurocode Tuning||'13 Audi S6||AWD||9.693||112.38|
|AccuAir||'13 Audi S4||AWD||10.561||103.80|
|european auto source||'08 BMW Z4M||RWD||10.583||107.01|
|Platte Forme||'06 BMW Z4M||RWD||10.604||105.43|
|GSR Autosport||'12 Mercedes C63 AMG||RWD||10.710||105.48|
|european car||'03 BMW M3||RWD||10.753||113.46|
|Trinity Autosport||'08 BMW M3||RWD||10.905||107.29|
|BBi Autosport||'85 Porsche 911||RWD||11.159||101.55|
|Revo Technik||'12 VW GTI||FWD||11.646||101.03|
|FSWerks||'13 Ford Focus ST||FWD||12.039||91.96|
Fastest Lap Competition at Streets of Willow
We say it every year but the Tuner GP really heats up once we arrive at the road course. This is where every team wants to win. It's where the tuner's art is under the microscope and can be best appreciated.
All the teams were on their Conti DW tires to ensure a level playing field, but they were allowed to enlist a professional driver if required. Most teams have a go themselves, but putting a hired gun behind the wheel doesn't hurt their chances.
In truth, we should probably provide our own driver to remove another variable, but it's difficult for one pilot to get the most from 11 different cars with little familiarization. So we allow driver selection to be another aspect of event preparation.
After the driver's briefing, all teams were given three 20min practice session in the morning. The 11 cars were split into three groups, so only three or four cars were on the track at any time. This gives them the opportunity to check set-up before the timed laps in the afternoon.
In between sessions, most teams were using the time to alter tire pressures and adjust suspension settings. Many found that the pressures could be lower than expected while the suspension needed to be stiffer to find the extra grip.
As usual, 034 Motorsport was the best prepared, having completed shakedown tests with the TT RS prior to arrival. However, the engine and suspension had since been altered in the continual quest for improvement, so driver Christian Miller requested several changes to find his happy place.
In the very first session, the TT set one of the fastest times of the day at 1:26.8, which showed they meant business. It was a time they struggled to repeat until the second session where Christian matched it. The third session was slightly slower but the team was now preserving its tires for a big effort in the afternoon timed session.
Over at Eurocode Tuning, the size and torque of the Audi S6 was causing some tire wear issues. In practice, the car seemed to understeer quite badly and the team was busy altering the pressures and rotating the tires to address the problem.
The times reflected the situation, with the first session resulting in a best time of 1:30.3, which was definitely off the pace. In the second session they dropped to 1:29 but seemed to have a steep hill to climb and spent a great deal of time working on the car.
Over at AccuAir, this was the real test of its Sports air suspension system. It was the first time any team had attempted to use air bags instead of coil springs in a high performance event like this, and only time would tell if they would succeed.
One variable was the introduction of Jim Pierce for driving duties. He has considerable experience of the Streets circuit, but this would be his first time on air. Fortunately, he was enjoying the experience and was working with the team to balance the air bag pressures.
"The car has a type of active suspension, with the bags compensating in the corners, so it doesn't understeer at all," Jim explained. "In fact, I can even get it to oversteer a little. However, we're going to work on the ride height so we're able to ride the bumps on the track better," he continued.
With a best time of 1:34.1 at the start of the day, the AccuAir team had some work to do. Indeed, they managed to shave off about 2sec from that time in the second session, and continued to improve all morning.
The smallest class was potentially the scene of the biggest rivalry, with the Ford's chassis balance and torque hoping to topple the GTI's extra horsepower. FSWerks was also helped by company owner Raffi Kazanjian being very familiar with the track, helping him to find his rhythm quickly.
He was delighted with the handling of the Focus ST, impressed at its ability to rotate into turns and was even using the traction control in its Sport mode, although opted to turn it off for later sessions.
Perhaps the biggest problem was with the brakes that were overheating. The team had uprated the pads but everything else was stock, so the fluid was boiling and needed time to cool down.
With his track knowledge, Raffi put down a 1:31.5 in session one, and dropped to a 1:30.9 by the end of practice. It was an improvement but would it be enough to take the class win?
Their opponent was the team from Revo Technik, which was adjusting the front tire pressures and stiffening the rear dampers to improve the GTI's handling. They also decided to reduce the engine power since it was overwhelming the tires and causing more problems than it was solving.
So while they started the day with a best time of 1:32.2 in the first practice session, they'd improved to 1:30.7 by the third one, putting them slightly ahead of the Focus and staying in contention for class honors.
The largest class accounted for the remaining six cars and would continue to be hard fought all day. Winner of the dyno competition, our own european car magazine Project E46 M3 turbo, would be driven by Michael Essa while Alex snapped photos, which should have given us a slight advantage. However, boost control issues that had first surfaced on the dyno continued to plague the car, with Michael complaining of power fluctuations on track. The solution was to bypass the controller to isolate the problem and adjust pressure via the wastegate.
This seemed to work since the best time of 1:29.4 in the first session dropped to 1:28.2 in the second before Michael decided to sit out the third to preserve the tires and clutch for the timed session.
Meanwhile, european auto source, fastest RWD on the drag strip, drove to the track like many other competitors, and quickly got to work on the set-up. Since this was the first year competing with the BMW Z4M, a number of changes had to be made to the suspension. The team was stiffening the compression and rebound settings to try and get more out of the tires.
To be honest, they should perhaps have left it well alone since their fastest time in practice came on the second lap of the day, recording 1:26.8. This was followed up with a 1:27.3 and a 1:27.2 in the later sessions, but they never seemed to find the sweet spot again. Hopefully, they were saving something for the timed sessions.
For Joe Yang from Trinity Autosport, this was only his second opportunity to drive at Streets of Willow, so he focused on learning the track. In the first session, his best time was a 1:29.8, but his blown E92 BMW M3 appeared to have more to offer. In the remaining two sessions, Joe's best time was 1:28.5, and he appeared to have his hands full if he was to beat the more experienced drivers...
... Such as Michael Essa from GSR Autosport, who switched between our E46 M3 and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe his company had entered. During practice, he was typically low key, completing a handful of laps before deciding to park the car and save its tires for the timed laps. However, we were able to record a best time of 1:27.5 during practice, which put the Benz among the front-runners for a class win.
Meanwhile, Joey Seely from BBi Autosport was wishing he'd entered one of the company's 1000hp 911 Turbos, rather than his '85 Carrera. However, a lack of suitable tire sizes for the modern machinery meant we persuaded them to enter this nostalgic favorite. And while we enjoyed watching the 911 on-track, Joey was busy getting used to the new rubber. However, he was happy with how the car was performing and decided to make few changes.
Faced with more powerful opposition, Joey knew he had to make a Banzai lap to be in with a chance. "I know it's in the car but I'm not sure it's in me," he confessed, while surveying the modern machinery around him.
Finally, Platte Forme AG was making adjustments to the damper and sway bar settings on its BMW Z4 M Coupe. The times from the first practice session suggested the car was on the pace, with a time of 1:27.5 before tragedy struck early in the second session.
During their first lap, an oil hose blew off, showering the engine bay in oil. This left a trail of oil on the track and eventually got on the Z4's tires. By the time the car emerged into sight from the "Bowl" it was already airborne, having left the track before the high-speed esses. Traveling fast over the rough ground, Clint Boisdeau miraculously kept the car right-side-up and limped back to the pits. However, the track was closed for 20min while the oil spill was cleaned up.
The problem appeared to stem from a push-fit oil line for the ESS supercharger. Either the heat or stress from track use had caused it to come loose. The repair was relatively simple - a hose clamp resolved it - but the clean-up would end their practice time. Ensuring the oil was off the tires was paramount, but the team was worried about possible engine damage after running without lubricant. Fortunately, they were able to rectify the car and would return for the timed runs.
Following practice and lunch, each team was invited to take three timed laps individually. The best time would count but the temperature had crept past 90°F by this point, and oil deposited on the track was inevitably going to affect the times.
The smallest class was the FWD category with only two competitors vying for top honors. And with a best time of 1:29.8, the victory and trophy again went to Revo Technik with its big-turbo VW GTI. The FSWerks Focus ST was almost a full second slower, with a best time of 1:30.9, which was within 0.1sec of their fastest lap of the day, but it wasn't enough to unsettle the VW.
Outgunned by the all-wheel drive cars, the RWD class was hard fought, with tenths of a second separating the top performers.
The battle was between the two BMW Z4M coupes, with european auto source narrowly taking the class win with a time of 1:27.4. This squeaked them past the Platte Forme car, which was recovering from an almost catastrophic problem in practice. So the team's best time of 1:27.6 should be considered a victory anyway.
Despite its win, EAS was about 1sec off its best practice time, indicating the higher afternoon temp, tire wear and less grip following the oil spill were taking a toll. Nevertheless, the team emerged as RWD class champs for the event, taking the wins in drag racing and road course.
Next up was the GSR Autosport C63 Coupe, which sounded the most awesome and won the award for best slow-down lap as Essa drifted each corner back to the pits. If we offered style points, he'd have won by a handy margin, but instead he was judged on his best lap of 1:28.2.
Interestingly, both GSR and Platte Forme had completed a flying lap, followed by a cool-down lap before going for broke a second time. Eurocode would do the same in the AWD class - the drivers allowing the tires and brakes to cool in between hot laps. Looking at the times, this tactic didn't appear to alter the results but it was interesting to see the different approach.
Fourth fastest RWD was the european car Project M3, which Essa pushed to a best time of 1:28.5. Again, it was slightly slower than its best qualifying time, but respectable nonetheless. With more rubber, the car probably had a quicker time under its belt, but boost issues forced a power reduction and that undoubtedly cost it time.
The Trinity Autosport M3 was fifth in class with a best lap of 1:29.5, which was a full second off his best practice lap, but was also significantly quicker than the BBi Autosport Porsche 911 Carrera in sixth place with a time of 1:30.1 - we suspect the company will bring a bigger gun to next year's shoot-out...
Taking this class in reverse order, the slowest of the three Audis was the S4 from AccuAir with a respectable time of 1:29.6. This was the best time of the day by a significant margin and highlighted how the AWD cars were totally unaffected by the changing conditions. It also vindicated the team's decision to enter a car on air suspension for the first time in the GP's 11-year history. It's time we all started looking at air-ride from a performance viewpoint rather than simply a gimmick...
Similarly, Eurocode Tuning had only managed 1:29 in practice, but set the second fastest time of the day with a 1:26.8 to jump the S6 into second place in class and overall. It was an impressive performance that will be taking some of the teams by surprise when they see these results in print for the first time!
Practice form didn't suggest the S6 had this level of ability, but somehow, Eurocode and driver, Jeremy Croiset, managed to coax the best performance from the Audi when it counted most.
And the winner is...
Fastest lap of the day and AWD class winner was 034 Motorsport with its TT RS. In many ways, this is the tamest car the team has entered, particularly if you compare it to the previous Audi A4 with VR6 turbo power, or the mid-engined VW GTI V6 turbo. And yet the guys at 034, led by Javad Shadzi and driver Christian Miller were again confident they had a winner.
The same car was actually brought to last year's ECGP but, with a full field of entrants and it having only minor mods, we didn't report on its results. However, the dry run must have shown 034 its strengths and weaknesses because, for ECGP13, the car didn't miss a beat. From the dyno to drag strip and road course, they went about a well-practiced routine of testing and improvement. They will push the car just enough to get the best results, and then wait to see if anybody else can come close.
Driving down from Fremont, CA, 034 makes a big commitment to compete in our Tuner GP, bringing a team of five on the road for our three-day event. But continued success, and event domination - making a clean sweep of the AWD class and taking the trophy for overall ECGP winner by virtue of setting the benchmark in every discipline - justifies their commitment. If you want to beat 034, you need to start planning now!
|034 Motorsport||'12 Audi TT RS||AWD||1:26.332|
|Eurocode Tuning||'13 Audi S6||AWD||1:26.780|
|european auto source||'08 BMW Z4M||RWD||1:27.455|
|Platte Forme||'06 BMW Z4M||RWD||1:27.658|
|GSR Autosport||'12 Mercedes C63 AMG||RWD||1:28.179|
|european car||'03 BMW M3||RWD||1:28.483|
|Trinity Autosport||'08 BMW M3||RWD||1:29.472|
|AccuAir||'13 Audi S4||AWD||1:29.658|
|Revo Technik||'12 VW GTI||FWD||1:29.855|
|BBi Autosport||'85 Porsche 911||RWD||1:30.111|
|FSWerks||'13 Ford Focus ST||FWD||1:30.958|
Team Profiles - 034 Motorsport
2012 Audi TT RS
+AWD class winner in Dyno, Drag And Track | Overall GP Winner
034 Motorsport... What more can we say? These guys show up each year, driving all the way from Fremont, CA, and are ready to destroy the opposition.
You can't blame 'em. They simply love racing, and seem to be better prepared than any other team for every aspect of the competition.
There's a proven formula here. Light weight, small chassis, all-wheel drive and gobs of horsepower: 034 brought a car that seemed to hit each area perfectly.
Although their 2012 Audi TT RS appeared relatively stock, it had an extraordinary amount of work done to it. Starting with its 660hp 2.5-liter motor boosted by an APR stage 3 turbo kit, intercooler and fuel pump, 034 downpipe, exhaust, clutch and flywheel, plus a Wavetrack limited-slip to get the ponies to the ground.
The chassis had Ohlins TTX coilovers along with an 034 rear sway bar, billet end-links and spherical trailing arm bushings. This was all the TT needed to dominate the Streets of Willow racetrack. Even the TT's factory brakes were up to the job, although 034/Cobalt race pads were used along with a 13" rear rotor upgrade.
Keep in mind, the car still had a full interior, but it didn't stop Christian "Birkenstocks" Miller from trouncing other drivers on the road course, or company owner, Javad Shadzi, from launching it hard at the drag strip. As before, the 034 team was again unbeatable.