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 |   |  Road Race Motorsports Fiat Abarth M1R
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Road Race Motorsports Fiat Abarth M1R

This street-mannered racecar ain't a toy

Justin Banner
Feb 24, 2015

Road Race Motorsports (RRM) is renowned for tuning Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, but lately it's begun dipping into the world of Fiat and its motorsports oriented brand, Abarth. The Tallini Competizione M1 was created to showcase what this 1.4-liter, turbocharged Italian machine is capable of, and the shop impressed by extracting 250 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque from it. But Rob Tallini and RRM wanted to prove the subcompact is more than just a hot street hatch and decided to transform the M1 street car into the M1R - a road ready racecar that drove in NASA's 2014 United States Touring Car Championship.

Avid1 AV 06 Photo 2/24   |   Avid1 AV 06

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth - Road Race Motorsports M1 Package

It was certainly a head-turner before the transformation, with its wheel arches extended via carbon fiber over-flares from Carbon Trix, aggressive wheel package, and that cute Fiat 500 look. Yeah, it also just blew past you like that turbo Civic from your past lifetime. The M1 got the attention of many publications and even the world's most famous car lover, Jay Leno. It was certainly earning a lot of notices, but there was still something most couldn't get past: it was still a "cute," unmanly-looking car.

Custom front badge Photo 3/24   |   Custom Front Badge

There is really only one way to remove this blight on such an amazing vehicle - turn it into a racecar. However, the shop wanted a racer that still features an A/C system, radio and some road manners. Then there is Road Race Motorsports owner, Tallini; Rob is a driver and in his past has off-roaded through SCCA Rally Racing and had some involvement with the Dakar Rally. He's driven in the Silver State Classic with this car, along with time attack in the Road Race Motorsports Mitsubishi Evolution VIII. To say Rob has enough pedigree to race is probably an understatement; he had to stop a while ago thanks to a back injury, but now has healed up enough to take on the challenge of wheel-to-wheel racing once again.

Driver Photo 4/24   |   Driver

Tuning wise the M1R still utilizes the same tune that you can get with an M1 package. This is thanks to the fact that USTCC is a power-to-weight class, so there isn't much in terms of limiting rules in the engine department. However, you do have to meet a certain ratio of power over weight, but that also means that Rob and RRM have a lot of room to play with in terms of the Fiat's heft or lack thereof. There has been some work done to help airflow to the radiator and intercoolers, too, namely the addition of some ducting and a second fan in front of the radiator. Keep in mind these have to fit behind the OEM bumper placement; there isn't much room since the front and rear overhangs are still very small, even on the US model.

Steering wheel Photo 5/24   |   Steering Wheel

All of that tuning is done with what you can buy from Road Race Motorsports right now. The first thing is the RRM lightweight aluminum pulley. While it weighs only 1.67-lbs and does not reduce the diameter so that all the accessories will still work as intended, you still get a performance improvement with a reduced rotational mass at the crank. The M1R also still sports the plug-and-play RRM Ultimate Tuner piggyback. This engine control module allows the boost to be increased to 25 PSI, gives the best throttle modulation, and supports methanol injection while still retaining the factory ECU. Finally, the horsepower package is completed with better breathing from intake to exhaust with RRM Intake, downpipe and exhaust kit. The heat from the downpipe is controlled through RRM Downpipe Jacket, while spark is improved with a set of Ignition Products Plasma Coils.

Driver net Photo 6/24   |   Driver Net

They do all of this and produce that 250hp without increasing the size of the intercooler or charge piping. Some may believe larger piping and a bigger heat exchanger are necessary for more power, but the reality is maximizing airflow throughout the intake is more conducive to gains. Considering that they are still using the OEM turbo that has a neck diameter of just 1.5-inches, the need for 2-inch plus piping and a large intercooler would actually be counterproductive as you would lose pressure and make the turbo work harder thanks to all that bigger piping and intercooler. Seriously, you should look at the size of the Abarth turbo as it looks like something that should be on a UTV or motorcycle.

Tow strap Photo 7/24   |   Tow Strap

The original doors were replaced with a pair from Fiat so RRM could cut into them and add door bars. The rollcage is bolt in and the same cage kit you can buy from RRM for any modern Fiat 500. Inside are Racetech seats and 6-point cam-lock belts. The original seat base proved to be too tall so new lower braces were made. A Road Race Motorsports steering wheel and adapter are the final pieces of perfection that carry over from the M1.

Rear hatch open Photo 8/24   |   Rear Hatch Open

To reduce the mass of the little Abarth, a Tallini Competizione OEM carbon fiber hood with added carbon hood vent and Tallini Competizione carbon fiber spoiler extension were installed. The original Tallini Competizione carbon rear diffuser is being modified for further aerodynamic aid to the spoiler extension. Additional weight reduction is accomplished with the RRM Competition battery upgrade system that uses an Antigravity Batteries AG1601, 16-cell battery Lithium Nano-Phosphate battery (which is pretty amazing). It produces 480 cranking amps and has a capacity of 16-amp hours, but is only 4.5-inches long, 5.25-inches high, 3.25-inches depth, and weighs 35 pounds less than the stock battery.

Antigravity Batteries Photo 9/24   |   Antigravity Batteries

The new wheels to fit the arches of the Road Race Motorsport M1R are a set of Avid.1 AV-06 wheels in 17x8 inches, +35 offset. They required RRM to install a set of spacers in order to mount the wheels in the appropriate offset that the M1R requires. The reason for a switch to 17s from the 16s they were using is one of the few areas that the USTCC mandates for a specification: all competitors must use 17X8 or 18x8 wheels. It's disappointing, as the original 16x9.0 set looked so good with Toyo Proxes 225/40R16s and aggressive offsets.

Fender flare Photo 10/24   |   Fender Flare

The front and rear brakes are modified with a set of Tar-Ox front and Road Race Motorsports rear slotted rotors. This includes a set of RRM brake pads and stainless steel braided brake lines, which have been tested in racing conditions. You're probably wondering why they haven't installed a set of huge front rotors with multiple piston calipers; when you take the weight of the car and the weight of the components, the need just isn't there. Even with the roll cage, they are still nearly 100 pounds lighter than the Abarth in stock form.

RRM sticker Photo 11/24   |   RRM Sticker

Suspension refinement comes from Bilstein and their PSS coil-over system. Ride height is adjustable for the front and rear springs, and in testing Rob and Road Race Motorsports have found the need to raise ride height on the Abarth. Without raising it, there just isn't enough suspension travel and the car can begin to act all sorts of weird when it encounters a rumble strip while turning. The front spring rate is 315-lbs/in and the rear progressive spring will start at 190-lbs/in to build up to 370-lbs/in. Further helping in the handling department are a set of RRM rear 25mm "Big Red Bar" and Neuspeed 25mm front anti-sway bars. All this improvement would be for naught if the chassis were to flex, so in addition to the RRM roll cage are the RRM upper brace bar and Corsa chassis bracing, which replaces the factory Abarth stamped aluminum braces to increase rigidity.

Driver seat Photo 12/24   |   Driver Seat

Rob Tallini and Road Race Motorsports entered the Miller Motorsports Park round of the USTCC, where the Utah Grand Prix was held and the Pirelli World Challenge, Pirelli GT3 Cup, and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Tour in the same weekend. If there was anyone that was up for the challenge of getting a car ready in just over a month, it was Rob and Road Race Motorsports. They have proven time and time again they can build some amazing vehicles for time attack, rock crawling, and even the SEMA show. Rob was able to pilot the Abarth M1R to 7th for Round 5 and 8th for Round 6. It's an impressive result for a car that was transformed from street car to race car in such little time.

By Justin Banner
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