Day three of etGP is always the most anticipated. All the teams know this is the ultimate test of a car, and where a tuner makes his reputation.
In the morning, we split the teams into two run groups - the Audis in one, the VWs and Mini in the other. They would have three 20min practice sessions before lunch to set up the cars. After lunch, each team got three flying laps to set their best time and take top honors.
Sadly, the times this year don't compare to previous years' because the track had been recently revised, with one corner shortened, and wider runoff aprons installed in the esses. This made the track quicker and more flowing; a definite improvement.
The Audis were out first, and 034 took an early spin as they discovered 645hp could overcome the grip of the Falken tires fairly easily. Driver Christian Miller then proceeded to drift almost every corner on the track, trying to set a good time. Their best lap was a 1.28.596, some 5.4sec faster than the Torque Factory car, which only completed a few laps as the team attempted to find the ideal settings.
The remaining Audis from EuroCode and Stasis were again late arrivals and on their trailers as the session ended.
The FWD group was more prepared, and the remaining four cars were all on track. Unfortunately, we'd lost ABD and Fireballed! on day two, so the depleted group was headed by VF, who managed a best time of 1.28.925 - worryingly close to the best of the Audis. Second fastest was WRD, followed by Mini Madness and Euro Sport. However, these early sessions are always very experimental and not a real indication of speed.
All the Audis were out this time and we had an indication of what was to come. 034 again set the fastest time at 1.27.041, but Stasis was just 0.4sec slower and Torque Factory was 0.6sec behind. EuroCode was off the pace after developing an oil leak.
To achieve such accurate lap timing down to 0.001sec, each car is fitted with a transponder. As the cars cross the finish line it triggers the computer and the time is recorded. All the cars use the system and it's very reliable. However, Stasis chose not to fit their transponder in the practice sessions. This was a brilliant piece of gamesmanship, since the team didn't want to let the opposition know what the TT was capable of. However, we managed to time them manually so at least we had an idea of what was happening!
At this point we should admit we were rather disappointed with Stasis. They'd won the track event on the three previous GPs and always brought a car with massive potential. However, we did feel the 290hp FWD TT was a miscalculation on their part, and told them so. The wry grin from Paul Lambert of Stasis suggested he knew otherwise. Boy, did we eat those words later!
All four of the FWD cars were out in their second session as well. Again VF set the fast lap at 1.29.338 but WRD was only 0.26sec behind before a failed ABS sensor sidelined them. The Euro Sport Rabbit was getting into its stride with a best lap of 1.32.600, but Mini Madness was snapping at their heels, only 0.2sec slower.
With Torque Factory in the pits, Stasis unofficially set a 1.26.278 and were almost a second faster than either 034 or EuroCode. However, the sight of 034 drifting each corner was worth the entry fee, although we suspect it wasn't helping tire life.
In the FWD group, we lost VF to a problem, so WRD dominated with a 1.29.493 lap. This was over 2sec quicker than Euro Sport, and Mini Madness was significantly slower still.pits.
This is where the BS stops. It's all or nothing. Time to prove that your car, package and preparation is superior to your competitors. Each car had an out-lap to build up speed. They were then timed over three flying laps and had a final slow-down lap before entering the
First up were the Audis and 034 suffered no dramas. Their fastest time was set on the first lap when the tires were coolest. However, the second and third laps were both 0.3sec slower but showed real consistency from Frankenstein's A4.
Next up was Torque Factory, which set its best time on the second timed lap. However, it was 1.7sec slower than 034.
The third car was EuroCode. The team was on the back foot, having suffered a few problems throughout practice and disaster struck when the front bumper became dislodged on the S4.
As the driver came around to complete the second lap, his team ran out onto the track and pushed the bumper back on. However, they felt it wasn't secure and pulled him into the pits to make a repair.
Sadly, we were unable to allow the car back on-track because the tires and engine had cooled and another lap would have given EuroCode an unfair advantage. Despite this, the S4 was exactly 0.7sec slower than 034 on its only timed lap, but this doesn't reflect the true potential of the car.
However, everything was put in the shade by Stasis. The team rolled out its FWD TT and beat 034Motorsport by 0.022sec. This feat is especially remarkable since it has less than half the power of the AWD Audis. But Stasis proved they know how to prepare a car for the track and took the fastest lap time for the fourth consecutive year.
The second fastest FWD car was the WRD GTI. This was remarkable since they were scrambling to fit a replacement ABS sensor from the Stasis TT before their timed laps, but they beat VF's far more powerful GTI by almost one second.
In seventh position was the Euro Sport Rabbit, which showed real consistency throughout the day, demoting the more powerful Mini into final place.
This was undoubtedly the most exciting etGP to date and a real insight into the strengths of the various VW/Audi and Mini chassis, motors and tuners. Hopefully it's given you something to think about when preparing your own car for the track or street.
|ROAD COURSE COMPETITION AWD|
|2. EuroCode Tuning||1:26.958|
|3. Torque Factory||1:28.522|
|ROAD COURSE COMPETITION FWD|
|1. Stasis Engineering||1:26.236|
|4. Euro Sport Accessories||1:31.656|
|6. ABD Racing||DNS|
|7. Fireballed! Racing||DNS|