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2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner GP

Top golf tuners show up to show off

Colin Ryan
Feb 18, 2016
Writer: Michael Febbo Photographers: Bob Hernandez, Danny Nguyen

In the past, the european car Tuner GP was an unwieldy collection of mismatched teams and vehicles that was more of a random buffet of what was available in the industry rather than a usable comparison. For 2015, we've changed that. Instead of having everything from 200hp front-wheel-drive subcompacts on the same track as 500+hp rear-wheel-drive race cars, we've decided to make things a bit more scientific. We narrowed our focus to just a single make and model, the Volkswagen Golf.

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The golf may be one of the world's best-selling automobiles, but in the United States, it's still a bit of a niche product. That niche, however, happens to be driving enthusiasts who require a car that is versatile, utilitarian, a good value, but is still one of the best driver's cars on the market. We opened up the competition to any generation of Golf, MK1 to MK7 and any variation from base to R models. As much as the old-school enthusiast in me wanted to see some MK2s come out and put on a show, the pragmatist in me understands why the MK4 was the oldest platform represented. The MK4 represents the Golf's turning point into the modern era, and its predecessors, while still great cars, just aren't on the same level in terms of refinement.

For 2015, we also tried something else, an open call to enthusiasts to enter and go head-to-head with top names in tuning. A few were brave enough to show up with their own cars to see how they matched up. Cars were separated into front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive classes and rules were pretty straightforward. No dedicated race cars; everyone had to have full interiors, with racing seats, bolt-in safety devices, and harnesses being allowed. Engine swaps were allowed, as long as they were available in a Golf at some point—more on this later. The factory suspension configuration had to be in place, no crazy custom double A-arm swaps allowed. Lastly, no nitrous oxide, but gasoline flavor was open to the competitors' preference.

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There were two events: drag racing at Autoclub Speedway's NHRA-certified quarter-mile track and the same facilities' infield road course. The drag racing started with hesitant competitors in careful pursuit of the ultimate launch, followed by precise shifts; it quickly devolved into lighthearted trash talking and friendly heads-up match racing.

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp hpa motorsports gli Photo 7/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Hpa Motorsports Gli

The following day at the road course started out a bit ominously as puddles from the previous night's rainstorm were still lingering. Dark clouds threatened rain the entire day and forced us to run larger groups than we had planned. Luckily, sportsmanship was in abundance and nobody ran into problems, or more importantly, each other, and the day went off relatively hitch-free.

55 Auto Union Tuning, '11 GTI, Raz Sebastian/Dave Marsh

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI karla pestotnik Photo 8/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI Karla Pestotnik

Nestled in California's Huntington Beach, Auto Union Tuning is a relative newcomer, established in 2011, but we have a feeling there's plenty more to come from this outfit. Especially if its best-in-class FWD quarter-mile performance is any indication, eclipsing the times of many in the all-wheel-drive category.

"We had a good setup on the car we brought (a customer's daily driver), but quickly learned that a proper alignment can make noticeable improvements around the track," said Raz Sebastian, co-owner of Auto Union Tuning with Dave Marsh. "We just changed alignment specs from the drag race to the track."

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Karla Pestotnik, a professional racer, performed the road course duties, while Marsh tore up the quarter-mile. And here's how he did it. "We knew traction was going to be an issue, as we had put 373 hp to the hubs on our dyno," Marsh said. "We aligned the front of the car with zero camber and near-zero toe. This ensured that our 235-section Continentals had as much contact with the road as possible. At the rear, we wanted the smallest contact, so we dialed in three degrees of negative camber and set the toe to zero. We then set the rear tires to their maximum rated pressures to further reduce the contact patch.

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI Photo 13/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI

"At the track, we set the front tires down to 22 psi and tried a run or two without doing a burnout and it was not pretty. Cold launches resulted in wheelspin with or without launch control. We eventually gave up on launch control altogether as the car was no faster coming off the line with the tires smoking at 5,000 rpm. We dropped pressures to 16 psi at the front and played with different launch and burnout techniques."

Ultimately, Marsh's five laws of FWD launching are: Good alignment with contact where you want it.

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  • Proper tire pressures.
  • Make sure to do a long enough burnout (5 to 8 seconds in Third gear worked for Marsh) to get the tires up to temperature, burn off all the solution from the burnout box, and shake off any debris.
  • Don't use launch control if it's spinning your tires. Left-foot braking can work really well as it's not shocking your drivetrain, takes advantage of the high stall speed that the DSG will allow, and lets you launch with a light amount of boost (depending on software, you may have to disable the ABS to make this work).
  • Make sure you have enough horsepower to stay ahead of the guy next to you. "E85, a Frankenturbo F23, and my custom calibration helped us accomplish that," Marsh said.

Sebastian remembers how he was bitten by the bug that once brought us the bug. "I think I was in seventh or eighth grade. I was at the Los Angeles Auto Show when the B5 S4 was on display. I started reading all the books I could get on anything VW and Audi. I've owned many VWs and Audis and made most of my family members buy them as well. I currently own an e-Golf and still have my B5 S4 I bought in 2004."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI Photo 18/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Auto Union Tuning 2011 GTI

Specs
'11 MK6 GTI
Engine: Frankenturbo F23 turbo, custom software calibration by AU tuning running on e85
Suspension: KW variant 2 coilovers
Brakes: Brembo GT kit, four-piston calipers 335mm rotors
Wheels: Volk Racing ZE40 18x8.5 inches

41 Emmanuele design, '15 GTI, Thomas Emmanuele

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Emmanuele Design 2015 GTI thomas emmanuele Photo 19/141   |   034 2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Emmanuele Design 2015 GTI Thomas Emmanuele

If Emmanuele Design of Anaheim, California, is indicative of VW Tuning's new wave, then surf's up. Thomas Emmanuele, 24, took class honors at the track, posting a better lap time than many all-wheel-drive rivals to be fourth fastest overall. And a class fourth in the quarter-mile competition is still a good performance, just a few thousandths away from the podium.

"To be honest, I really didn't expect the car to fare so well given the simple modification list," Emmanuele said. "While we addressed many of the suspension and bolt-on items, we were still on stock brakes, turbo, etc. One takeaway is that, from the heavily modified variations to the mild bolt-on cars, every car at the event performed well. It shows what a balanced platform and capable chassis the golf has."

Emmanuele Design has only been around since February 2014, but its founder is no stranger to Wolfsburg's machines. "This GTI is my second VW," he said. "The first being a 2006 Passat 2.0T." His operation started out as an aftermarket supplier, but has since expanded into parts manufacturing using CAD, CNC, and 3-D printing.

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Specs '15 MK7 GTI
Engine: flash and turbo back exhaust
Suspension: Neuspeed springs, Bilstein dampers
Brakes: factory
Wheels: Vorsteiner VF103 19x8.5 inches

44/53 Eurocode tuning, '15 GTI/'16 Golf R, David Sarabi

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp EuroCode 2015 GTI david sarabi Photo 24/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Eurocode 2015 GTI David Sarabi

As well as some choice APR components, Eurocode Tuning of Torrance, California went big with its homegrown range of parts in the two cars it entered. One for the all-wheel-drive class, the other for the front-drive category.

"Our Mark VII GTI and Mark VII Golf R are two different cars, yet the same in many ways," said Eurocode's David Sarabi. "We have been testing our GTI since its release in 2015. It was used to develop our intercooler, hose kit, crank pulley, strut tower braces, tunnel brace, sway bars, endlinks, trailing arm, rear camber arm, downpipe, and motor mount inserts. Quite a few of these are compatible with the Golf R.

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"All our parts performed the same on the track as they did during our own testing, so we are extremely pleased with the results. Eurocode has been manufacturing and providing performance enhancements for the Audi/VW family since 2001. The MQB platform is simply amazing. VW has taken the already fantastic GTI to even greater heights with the new Golf R."

Specs
'11 MK6 GTI
Engine: Frankenturbo F23 turbo, custom software calibration by AU Tuning running on e85
Suspension: KW variant 2 coilovers
Brakes: Brembo GT kit, four-piston calipers 335mm rotors
Wheels: Volk Racing ZE40 18x8.5 inches

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp EuroCode 2015 GTI Photo 29/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Eurocode 2015 GTI

Specs
'15 MK7 GTI
Engine: APR stage 2
Suspension: Bilstein coilovers
Brakes: Stoptech kit, four-piston calipers
Wheels: 1552 Turbomacs 18x9 inches

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp EuroCode 2016 Golf R Photo 30/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Eurocode 2016 Golf R

Specs
'16 MK7 Golf R
Engine: turboback exhaust
Suspension: Bilstein coilovers
Brakes: Stoptech kit, four-piston calipers
Wheels: 1552 Turbomacs 18x9 inches

46/49 Euro sport accessories, '15 GTI/Raffi Kazanjian, '04 R32/Viken Kazanjian

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Euro Sport Accessories 2015 GTI raffi kazanjian Photo 31/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Euro Sport Accessories 2015 GTI Raffi Kazanjian

There's a magical place in Anaheim, California. But it's not Disneyland. It's Euro Sport Accessories, and Raffi Kazanjian is the equivalent of Walt (when he was alive, as opposed to deep frozen). There isn't a castle or railway, just a by-the-numbers unit in an industrial area. But the rides can be just as thrilling. Third in class at the track, just a few tenths shy of second, is more than respectable.

"I have been running the tuner grand prix events since 2002," Kazanjian said. "Being all VW Golf/GTI this year made it a more interesting competition. Since the cars were separated by two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, I figured it would be a great idea to enter a vehicle in both categories. I assumed our Golf R32 turbo (driven by younger brother Vik) would be faster in both the drag and road course, but our lighter MK7 GTI did everything much better with less power. VW has done a fantastic job on the MK7 with its stiffer chassis, and it really shined on the road course."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Euro Sport Accessories 2004 R32 viken kaanjian Photo 32/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Euro Sport Accessories 2004 R32 Viken Kaanjian

Kazanjian found having an all-Golf event made the tuner GP fairer and more comparable across the board. "It wasn't only about big horsepower, but the best car setup and skillful driving," he said. Which worked in Kazanjian's favor. "I've been racing Volkswagens since 1983 with SCCA and hold a competition road racing license. Racing got me involved in the performance Volkswagen business back in 1988. After many years of hard work and dedication, I have never stopped doing what I love to do."

"I pulled out the old R32 for some fun and to listen to the music from the exhaust," said Vik Kazanjian, younger brother of Raffi. This is one of two '04 R32s he owns. "It was in hibernation for a while, so it didn't run at its best. I should have spent more time on it before the event. Overall, though, the car was a blast to drive." As it should be with 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque to play with.

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There are 13 years between Vik and Raffi, and although there's some natural competitiveness, Kazanjian the younger has found his own niche. "Raffi has so much track experience compared to myself, it's not really a fair comparison. I'm content with getting out there and having fun. I enjoy the process of building cars and making everything work reliably. That's my joy, as well as mixing in some track time."

Both brothers found the Tuner GP "a chance to see what the competition has and what's coming out," Vik said. "Looking back, I would have added a few more mods to both of our cars, since we headed into the event very conservatively. We may have been able to snatch a better position."

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It seems there are two extra initials in the Kazanjian DNA. "I've always loved the Volkswagen brand," Vik said. "I started working on them when I was around 12 or 13. I built my first VW 2.0 8V engine when I was 14, then built a VW transmission at 16 and started on VR6 engines around 18 (Raffi also owns a '93 Corrado VR6, lucky so-and-so). I'm well versed on most engines and have a knack for extracting extra power and performance out of any model."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Euro Sport Accessories 2004 R32 Photo 38/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Euro Sport Accessories 2004 R32

Specs
'04 MK4 R32
Engine: 3.2L VR6 with custom turbo kit
Suspension: H&R springs, Bilstein dampers
Brakes: Stoptech 14-inch big brake kit
Wheels: Avante Garde 18x8.5 inches

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Euro Sport Accessories 2015 GTI Photo 39/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Euro Sport Accessories 2015 GTI

Specs
'15 MK7 GTI
Engine: GIAC flash, Magnaflow exhaust
Suspension: H&R RSS+ coilovers, H&R rear sway bar
Brakes: Stoptech
Wheels: Neuspeed RSE10 18x8.5 inches

51 Galpin VW, 2015 Golf R, Sherif Hamid

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp galpin vw 2015 Golf R sherif hamid Photo 40/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Galpin Vw 2015 Golf R Sherif Hamid

A lightly tuned 2015 R is a wonderful thing. Sherif Hamid of Galpin VW, out there in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, agrees. His 345hp machine (a boost of 53 horses above stock) took Third in the drag challenge, just behind the all-conquering HPA cars. It's a shame, then, that road-course glory proved to be elusive.

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"My car didn't do so well on the track because the suspension wasn't sorted out," Hamid said. "All I had were some springs. Now I have upgraded the car to stage two and installed the rear sway bar; my performance would be better in every area. And it was my first time running quarter-mile. Also, I used to track my cars for the first 10 years on the scene, but since having kids five years ago, I hadn't been back. So you could say I was a little rusty."

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Ah, those peaceful, pre-offspring days, when the only noises were the ones made by you. Hamid says he was "one of the O.G. SoCal R32 guys. My first car was an '85 Golf, then I went a while until I got my '00 GTI. I followed that with a '04 R32. After that, I bought a '10 Audi A3 Quattro, which I put a K04 on, finally ending with my current '15 Golf R. I have mad love for VW and would have a hard time driving anything else. Except an Audi."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp 2015 Golf R Photo 43/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp 2015 Golf R

Specs
'15 MK5 Golf R
Engine: unspecified
Suspension: VW racing springs
Brakes: stock
Wheels: VW racing 19x8 inches

50/45 HPA Motorsports, '04 R32/'13 Golf R, Marcel Horn

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R marcel horn Photo 44/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R Marcel Horn

The "H" in HPA doesn't stand for "hardcore," but perhaps it should. HPA Motorsports hails from Canada, the enchanted land to the north. People seem to know a lot about all-wheel drive up there in the frozen wastes. And HPA knows a heck of a lot about how to get the best from a Golf. On the track, its '13 Golf R annihilated the competition, coming in almost 4 seconds quicker than the Second-placed car, the '04 R32 also fielded by HPA. That said, the R does have the most power by a significant margin. And the R32 has the second most muscle. So the dragstrip told a similar tale. The moral of the whole story seems to be that bigger is most often better, as long as it's done right. It also helps to have a pro racer like Jeff Altenburg behind the wheel.

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2004 Photo 45/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2004

Officially, HPA entered two cars, but brought three to the party. "Our two formal Golf entries showcased our range of products available for all-wheel platforms and different tiers of V-6 upgrades," said Marcel Horn, HPA's president. "The MK4 introduced our latest affordable single turbo package and the MK7 showcased our newest twin-turbo setup. Being customer cars, we were not there to tear them up, just show how strong the packages are. Our front-wheel-drive GLI touring car ran a 1:15 on street Conti tires."

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HPA has a rich history with VW. "March 2016 represents our 25th anniversary building VW and Audi cars," Horn said. Highlights have been winning the best overall car at SEMA 2004 with our twin-turbo MK4 R32, and having HPA and our car inducted into Sony's Gran Turismo franchise for life. We backed this up in 2007 with another win and car in the game with our orange FT565 twin-turbo Audi TT. In 2005, Volkswagen Germany hired HPA to build a trio of tuner cars, the RGT Jetta, Passat, and Touareg. The Jetta lives in the Wolfsburg Museum today. This had been the first time in its 80-year history that the brand ventured beyond native soil for the development of such high-profile cars."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2004 R32 Photo 47/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2004 R32

Specs
'04 MK4 R32
Engine: 3.2L VR6 single-turbo, aluminum intake manifold, air-to-water intercooler, Mahle pistons, 3.5-inch exhaust
Suspension: Bilstein coiloversv
Brakes: HPA six-piston (f), four-piston (r)
Wheels: BBS ch 18x8.5 inches

Specs
'15 MK7 Golf R
Engine: 3.6L VR6 twin-turbo, twin intercoolers, 3.5-inch exhaust
Suspension: KW Clubsport coilovers
Brakes: HPA six-piston (f), four-piston (r)
Wheels: HRE ff01 19x8.5 inches

58 The ID Agency, '15 GTI, Brandon Scarpelli

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp The ID Agency 2015 GTI brandon scarpelli Photo 51/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp The ID Agency 2015 GTI Brandon Scarpelli

Brandon Scarpelli has a cool day job, working for The ID Agency in Los Angeles, handling public relations and marketing for a number of automotive clients. By night, Scarpelli puts on jeans and an old T-shirt and wrenches on his '15 GTI. Or at least thinks about what modifications to make and who would be best to do the work.

He's not a regular tuner as such, so he entered as an independent. But Scarpelli has followed the Tuner GP for a few years and even worked at the event in 2014. Also, it turns out he's a proper VW guy. "I've always been a fan of Volkswagens," he said, "and have heard great things about the VW community. I had never owned one prior to this GTI, but now I have a Tiguan as well. Both were purchased on the same day.

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"The GTI performed great for me over the two-day event. I was really pleased with the quarter-mile and road course times I was able to achieve, considering it was the first time the car had been tracked. The overall experience was great. It really helped me learn what the strengths and weaknesses are with the new MK7 chassis. I can use that information to help me determine what modifications the car needs next, how to better set the car up, and improve on my driving ability."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp The ID Agency 2015 GTI Photo 56/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp The ID Agency 2015 GTI

Specs
'11 MK6 GTI
Engine: APR stage 1, Neuspeed torque-arm insert
Suspension: Megan racing coilovers
Brakes: stock
Wheels: Enkei Kojin 18x8 inches

42 Pure Motorsports/Volkswagen of Murrieta, '11 GTI Joel Ofrecio

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp VW of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI joel ofrecio Photo 57/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp VW Of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI Joel Ofrecio

Straight outta San Diego came Joel Ofrecio's '11 GTI, showing off some well-chosen modifications. Some might think it strange to subject a hot hatch to a drag race, but an empty strip of tarmac and a car with a decent amount of power always have the potential for some fun. Ofrecio's excellent performance there came at a price, though.

"I did one too many back-to-back runs at the strip and toasted the clutch," he said. "I was trying to overcome all the wheelspin off the line by slipping it more than normal. It wasn't holding any kind of power after that. It would slip if I gave it anything over 10 pounds of boost. I still wanted to drive at the track, so I ran a stock tune and drove conservatively. My car is more suited for track than strip, but not having the power was a huge hindrance. Just having that push out of turns and on the straights would have given me at least a few seconds. All in all, I think I hung in there pretty well.

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp VW of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI Photo 61/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp VW Of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI

"I fell in love with Volkswagen since my sister brought home a new '01 Jetta 1.8T. This is the second VW I've owned. My first was a '02 1.8T GTI. I went to Universal Technical Institute, went through the Volkswagen Technician Recruiting Program, and have been working in Volkswagen dealers since 2005. Now I am the shop foreman for Volkswagen of Murrieta. Besides tuning, I have always done all the work on my cars and source most of my parts from Pure Motorsports and Parts4VWs."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp VW of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI Photo 62/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp VW Of Murrieta Pure Motorsports 2011 GTI

Specs
'11 MK6 GTI
Engine: unspecified
Suspension: H&R springs, Bilstein dampers
Brakes: TTRS swap (f), Golf R (r) w/hawk pads
Wheels: Neuspeed RSE12

54 '15 VW GTI PP, Mark Rhodes

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp ind 2015 GTI PP mark rhodes Photo 63/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Ind 2015 GTI PP Mark Rhodes

Neuspeed of Camarillo, California, should be a household name in households where any fan of European cars lives, and Mark Rhodes is one of its best customers. It's good to see the company standing by as well as standing on its products, with an excellent performance-pack-equipped '15 GTI bristling with Neuspeed parts, from turbo components to springs, antiroll bars, and even in-house alloy wheels. Not many tuners can offer such a wide array.

"The event was cool," said Jerry Tambayong, Neuspeed's head of product development. "You get to see how your car runs compared to others. I'm not sure, however, what happened at the track, other than suspension geometry. We entered the challenge with 100 percent street bolt-on parts: rear sway bar, lowering springs with Bilstein sports, perhaps the only car without an adjustable coilover system. So with the lack of necessary camber, high spring rate, damper adjustability, and corner balancing, we probably couldn't get that good traction and balance on cornering."

Mark Rhodes, who took his company's car to an impressive second-in-class place at the dragstrip, added: "Hopefully next year we can bring our 'race cars' out."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp ind 2015 GTI PP Photo 67/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Ind 2015 GTI PP

Specs
'15 MK7 GTI
Engine: Neuspeed power module, P-flo, turbo discharge pipe, power pulley, and front mount intercooler
Suspension: Neuspeed race springs, antiroll bars, and endlinks
Brakes: AP Racing four-piston kit (f)
Wheels: Neuspeed RSE10 18x8.5 inches

43 Parts4vws.com, '12 Golf R, Michael Potter

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R Photo 68/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R

There might be something Mike Potter from Temecula, California, doesn't know about VW cars, but chances are it's so obscure that not even anyone at Volkswagen knows it, either. He and his '12 R turned in a solid performance, making use of some well-established aftermarket products, including some Neuspeed parts.

"I was really interested to test out all the modifications we did, to see how they stacked up against other modified Golfs and GTIS," said Potter, whose approach might be considered zen-like. "Sometimes keeping it simple with nothing crazy makes for a consistently fun car on the track. I was really happy with the car's performance. Especially considering we were basically on street tires, and the competition ahead of me was pretty hardcore."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R Photo 72/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R

For Potter, racing and Volkswagens have always gone together. "I've been tuning VWs since the late '80s. It all started in 1986," he said. "My first VW was a '77 Scirocco 1.6. I ended up doing ROP through high school and worked at the local Volkswagen dealership for work experience and training. I continued my career at Volkswagen dealers until I started Parts4VWs.com, selling parts and accessories online. Through the years, we have sponsored track days, run multiple weekends at Buttonwillow Raceway and various other tracks, and competed in four one lap of america events, placing top 10 in my class each time."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R Photo 73/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Parts4vwscom 2012 Golf R

Specs
'12 MK6 Golf R
Engine: GIAC stage 2, Neuspeed bolt-ons
Suspension: Bilstein PSS10 coilovers, Neuspeed antiroll bars
Brakes: stock hardware, Hawk pads
Wheels: Neuspeed RSE05 17x8 inches

56 SW2 Tuning, '15 GTI, Sterling Sackey

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp SW2 Tuning 2015 GTI sterling sackey Photo 74/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp SW2 Tuning 2015 GTI Sterling Sackey

At 23 years old, Sterling Sackey was the youngest participant in our 2015 event. His company—SW2 Tuning (a retail space opens soon in Santa Ana, California)—is also young, having started in 2012 while Sackey was still at UCLA. Here's a good example of new school meeting old school. "I came up with SW2 tuning for my 'tuning company' in Forza Motorsports 2, the Xbox game," Sackey said. "My gamer tag at the time was swiftwolf 2. Hence the name. Building a virtual company inspired me to start one in real life."

As for his '15 GTI, Sackey bought it as a daily driver. "This event proved to me the potential of the GTI. The performance package differential takes the GTI to a completely different level from previous generations."

A decent fifth in class on the road course was bittersweet, since his '15 GTI held the slowest drag times. "Our car performed great on race day, but come drag day we had serious clouds of white smoke coming from the exhaust after only a few laps. So we shut it down for fear of causing more damage. I later learned that the dealer's free 10,000-mile service days earlier had resulted in an oil overfill, causing it to get sucked into the PCV during hard cornering. Had we run the rest of the day, I think we could have done significantly better. Oh well, next time."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp SW2 Tuning 2015 GTI Photo 78/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp SW2 Tuning 2015 GTI

Specs
'15 MK7 Golf R
Engine: unspecified
Suspension: VW racing springs
Brakes: stock
Wheels: Advan RGIII 18x8 inches

52 Volkswagen, '15 Golf R, Boris Said/Michael Febbo

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Page One Automotive 2015 Golf R michael febbo Photo 79/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Page One Automotive 2015 Golf R Michael Febbo

It's only a matter time time before Pope Francis recognizes Brad Kleinman as the patron saint of car journalists who live in (or make visits to) Southern California. The good Mr. Kleinman works for Page One Automotive, an operation that runs the West Coast press fleets of various manufacturers, including Volkswagen. When we needed a stock '15 R as a "control" vehicle to give us an idea of how well or otherwise the competing vehicles had been modified, Kleinman stepped up to the plate. Cue angelic voices.

In the hands of pro racer Boris Said, the control R scored Fifth place in its class during the track session. The drag session was slightly more of a drag: Sixth in class. But we shouldn't put too much blame on the driver (and our illustrious editor), Mike Febbo, since he was only a fraction of a whisker slower than the Fourth-placed car. And everyone in front had more power. Incidentally, Febbo preferred a different launch technique to Dave Marsh from Auto Union Tuning. "With all-wheel drive, if it's DSG, the car has launch control, so it's both feet flat to the floor then let off the brake," he said. "If it's a manual, rev it up and drop the clutch."

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The stock Golf R is a fantastic car right out of the box. According to Said, "It's really well balanced, almost like a rear-wheel-drive car coming off corners." As an owner of a VW dealership, Said hadn't spent too much time in the Golf R "As fast they come in, they go out. I have never gotten a chance to drive one at the dealership."

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Performance Trends

  • You will notice no car here is lowered all the way to the ground. As a matter of fact, several of the cars on adjustable coilovers actually sit higher than the cars on non-adjustable coilovers. Suspension travel and not killing the cars' suspension geometry is by far more important than a slight drop in center of gravity.
  • The newer the VW, the better. It's hard to argue with the benefits of tech, and Volkswagen adds more and more with each generation. The MK7 is superior in suspension development, body stiffness, power output potential, and just about every other measure.
  • VWs aren't for drag racing.

Faster for reason—HPA MK7 Golf R

Everyone at the event was shocked and awed by HPA's performance and maybe more importantly, the giant gap between its cars and the rest of the field. With that said, we have to single out the MK7 R from the rest of the field, as it didn't meet the rules of the event.

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R Photo 88/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R

The rules stated that engine swaps were allowed, as long as it was an engine that came in the Golf platform. The 3.6L VR6 used in HPA's monster of a hot-hatch was sourced from a Passat, and as much as we have always hoped VW would drop it in a Golf, it never has. So sadly, we have to declare it outside the rules. But still, damn fast.

The HPA 2004 R32, however, was inside the rules and becomes the winning car. Keep in mind, our neighbors to the north still showed up to a fencing match with broadsword. The engine modifications alone represent a bigger investment than a MK4 R32, but as the old saying goes, "Speed costs, how fast do you want to go."

2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2004 R32 Photo 89/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2004 R32

Seeing both cars tear up the track reminded us what the word tuner once meant. Names like Ruf, Brabus, and ABT all at one point took performance to the extreme with custom builds and low volume modifications that weren't for everyone. All the cars in the field represent well-developed projects that are accessible to just about any owner. These are cars that can be built on a relatively modest budget by enthusiasts with a little bit of mechanical ability and a desire to go faster. HPA's cars aren't for everyone, and we're happy someone is still building crazy things.

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Spec Tire

As always, every competitor in the GP was supplied a set of Continental extremecontact DW max performance summer tires in sizes of their choice. While this tire is designed primarily for street use, the high level of ultimate grip, compliant design, and continuous tread ribs make for predictable track performance. On the road, we've always liked the DW's ride quality and low noise level, and we were almost able to test out its wet weather prowess.

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The extremecontact DW is always a good choice for the performance tuner. It's hard to argue with high performance and good road manners all at a competitive price.

The Finish Line

We declared the 2014 Tuner GP a "learning year," but every year will be a new educational experience. The '15 GP is the model for future events; similar cars competing for tuning superiority. We are looking at different options for the future, obviously Audi, BMW, and Porsche are all top contenders for the next marque. At this point, we would love to hear what our readers and the tuning community would like to see, so drop us a line.

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We are also looking into the elimination of the drag racing element and possibly substituting in something more controlled like the performance testing we do on new cars. Using a control driver to keep results even and really giving you, the readers, a better basis for comparing tuners. Next year, we will also require mandatory modification lists, so you will have a better idea of who was running what.

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This is another GP in the books. A comparison of the ultimate hot-hatch, a car that many of us have cut our teeth on and still enjoy today. We need to thank everyone for coming out and competing. For many of our competitors, this was a major investment in time and energy, and it's appreciated. Thanks to Exotics Racing for helping secure the facility, and a big thank you to Continental Tire for being the title sponsor. See you all again next year.

2015 european car Tuner GP Presented by Continental Tire

Auto Club Speedway Infield Road Course
AWD CLASS
Pos.#CarNameBest Lap
145 HPA Motorsports '04 VW R32Jeff Altenburg1:16.536
244 EuroCode '16 VW Golf RIan Baas1:17.478
343 Parts4vws.com '12 VW Golf RMichael Potter1:19.158
452 EC Control '15 VW Golf RBoris Said1:19.331
546 Euro Sport Accessories '04 VW R32Viken Kazanjian1:21.684
651 Galpin VW '15 VW Golf RSherif Hamid1:21.829
DQ50 HPA Motorsports '13 VW Golf RJeff Altenburg1:12.823*
FWD CLASS
141 Emmanuele Design '15 VW GTIThomas Emmanuele1:18.659
253 EuroCode '15 VW GTIIan Baas1:19.086
349 Euro Sport Accessories '15 VW GTIRaffi Kazanjian1:19.358
455 Auto Union Tuning '11 VW GTIKarla Pestotnik1:20.054
556 SW2 Tuning '15 VW GTISterling Sackey1:21.869
658 The ID Agency '15 VW GTIBrandon Scarpelli1:21.885
754 IND '15 VW GTI PPMark Rhodes1:22.146
842 Pure Motorsports/ VW of Murrieta '11 VW GTIJoel Ofrecio1:24.777
Auto Club Dragway
AWD CLASS
145 HPA Motorsports '04 VW R32Jeff Altenburg12.198, 120.19
251 Galpin VW '15 VW Golf RSherif Hamid12.802, 103.85
344 EuroCode '16 VW Golf RIan Baas13.090112.72
443 Parts4vws.com '12 VW Golf RMichael Potter13.509, 102.53
552 EC Control '15 VW Golf RMike Febbo13.523, 100.37
646 EuroSport Accessories '04 VW R32Viken Kazanjian13.791, 105.32
DQ50 HPA Motorsports '13 VW Golf RJeff Altenburg10.720, 130.95*
FWD CLASS
155 Auto Union Tuning '11 VW GTIDavid Marsh12.848, 113.70
254 IND '15 VW GTI PPMark Rhodes13.116, 112.50
353 EuroCode '15 VW GTIIan Baas13.296, 109.49
441 Emmanuele Design '15 VW GTIThomas Emmanuele13.425, 109.94
542 Pure Motorsports/VW of Murrieta '11 VW GTIJoel Ofrecio13.566, 109.56
649 Euro Sport Accessories '15 VW GTIRaffi Kazanjian13.791, 108.10
758 The ID Agency '15 VW GTIBrandon Scarpelli13.885, 104.59
856 SW2 Tuning '15 VW GTISterling Sackey13.934, 104.35
*Disqualified but far from disrespected. The HPA Golf R was by far, and I mean by a long shot, the fastest car on the dragstrip or track during the competition. It was judged to be outside the rules, however. The 3.6L VR6 engine was never used in a production Golf.
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2015 european car continental tire tuner gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R Photo 114/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp HPA Motorsports 2013 Golf R
2015 european car continental tire tuner gp Page One Automotive 2015 Golf R Photo 124/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Page One Automotive 2015 Golf R
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2015 european car continental tire tuner gp ind 2015 GTI PP Photo 141/141   |   2015 European Car Continental Tire Tuner Gp Ind 2015 GTI PP
By Colin Ryan
180 Articles

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