Catch up on the previous development of Integrated Engineering's Project EA888.3: Red Baron GLI here.
Track Day 1Initial Impressions Project Red Baron started off when we spotted the new 3rd Generation TSI engine in the 2013.5 Jetta GLI's. For some curious quirk of VW/Audi reasoning, this split year special came equipped with the next generation engine which will serve as the workhorse 2.0L for the next body style of VW and Audi cars. We ran out and bought one immediately so we could get our hands on that engine. After we got it home, we quickly realized we were going to have to do something with the other 2500 pounds of steel and aluminum VW so generously included in that purchase. A bit of quick brainstorming, and we decided that this car should be a weekend warrior, equally happy on the street or at the road course. Project Red Baron also needs to look good around town or at a car show, so this build really will be a balancing act.
We are lucky enough to have the beautiful Miller Motorsports Park less than 40 minutes from our facility. You could not ask for a better crucible to test parts. There is just something about a big, fast road course out in the middle of a 100 degree desert that beats up on parts like nothing else. This project will proceed in stages, with street and track testing to evaluate the modifications along the way.
The obvious starting point was to see what the car is like totally stock. We put a few hundred miles on it on the street- even took it up some canyon roads for a picnic. The first thing which is obvious is that the new engine is excellent. Turbo lag is further reduced from even the TSI gen 2 engines, yet this engine sports a larger turbocharger and makes more power. It feels like it pulls hard through the mid range and only drops off slightly up top. Obviously, at OE boost levels it does not tear the tires off the tarmac, but it is very respectable. The rest of the car is pretty good on the street, the suspension is a little soft and the rock hard OE tires struggle for grip even with stock power levels. Push it into a corner hard and the front end will still slide first, but the under steer is less pronounced then in VW's of the past. That could be partially due to the 20 pounds or so saved over the front wheels from that new Gen 3 TSI engine. Overall though, the car is pretty well composed all around. That weighed heavily on our decision to keep the level of modifications moderate on this car and ensure that it remains very drivable on the street.
With some initial impressions on the street taken care of, and a solid 300 miles on the odometer, we packed up and headed out to a track day at Miller Motorsports Park. Expectations were pretty low and prophecies of wrecked tires and murdered brakes circulated on the ride out. In fact, we even caught a bit of grief from the tech inspectors for bringing out a lowly Jetta. However, about 3 turns in I was pleasantly surprised with the level of mechanical grip available. This car is predictable, better balanced then any older FWD VW I have driven, and a lot less terrible then I expected. We managed to stick it out behind some far more track worthy cars, and generally tested the hell out of this stock setup. That revealed a few issues.
First and foremost, the stock suspension is far too soft for road course use. The body roll becomes pronounced when the car is driven right to the limit, rolling the OE tires over onto their out most edges. This is keeping the grip levels down significantly and causing lots of tire wear. The brakes took about one hard lap to boil and then were spongy and very scary for the rest of the day. Inspection revealed that the rotors were wearing unevenly and even had some grooves in them, probably from the pads breaking down. Clearly, this car needs some real performance brake pads and a large quantity of air ducted to the front brakes as soon as possible!
As an experienced race driver, none of those things were particularly news to me though. In fact, I would have been extremely surprised if that hadn't happened. What was a shock though, was the cooling system issues on this car. As soon as we pushed it hard, the water temperature quickly started climbing. I relented and started short shifting and lifting early on the straights when temperatures exceeded 240 degrees! It's basically unheard of for a totally stock car to do this. In the next session, I ran the heat on full blast and that helped a bit, but oil temps were still over 275 degrees. This thing clearly has some major thermal issues that need to be addressed. We will come up with a fix if we need to, but most likely VW will actually be doing some sort of recall or retrofit to these- clearly they didn't test ANYTHING before they started shipping them. Ours will even overheat if it is held at full throttle for a long time on the freeway. Sad.
That left us with plenty of ideas for what to improve upon.
Our first round of modifications will address the basic suspension issues with a set of KW V3 coilovers. A set of Integrated Engineering front camber plates will allow us to put proper camber on the sticky Toyo R888's DOT-R's we are going to put on the car. These are the most aggressive tires I would dare daily drive on. We ordered them with full tread so that they can be driven in the rain- for a while at least. A set of beautiful VMR V718's was also obtained- these will hold our improved rubber and also make the car look great! Not holding our breath for VW to come help us with the cooling issue, we will begin looking into alternative cooling methods. We ordered an OE Auxiliary radiator from an R32, we can modify it as necessary and go from here. We need to tackle these cooling issues so that we can increase the power output safely in the future. A set of Hawk HP Plus front pads will round out the initial round of modifications, and we are hurrying to develop a prototype set of brake ducts for the front brakes. Those modifications combined should give us a much more capable car for the next round of testing!
-Peter Blais Technical Director and Chief of Engineering Integrated Engineering