For the North American VW scene, professional racing is still yearning for attention. Besides local autocross, drag and club racing, there isn't an enormous group of VW tuners and enthusiasts taking motorsports seriously. Obviously the Stasis Audis are at the forefront of touring car competition, and now Christian Miller has entered Speed's World Challenge Touring Car Championship in his fully-built Mk4 Jetta racecar.
HistoryBack in '99 there was a family-owned team making an impact on the racing scene. Hagestad Racing was owned and operated by father and son Bob and Drew Hagestad. Bob had owned a Porsche/Audi dealership and competitively raced Porsches in the '70s. He also owned a VW dealership and was an avid enthusiast of VWs and World Challenge. So he built a Mk4 chassis, which was brand new at the time.
The story goes that he had approached VW Racing in Hannover, Germany for help and advice since they were preparing the New Beetle Cup cars back then. During the conversations, VW proposed they build the entire car for him. Bob accepted and paid approximately $130,000 for the car with a 2.0 liter 16v motor. It was the last car ever built by VW Racing before it closed.
Hagestad Racing campaigned the Jetta for one year. The team liked the car so much they decided to build two more using the same platform. Hagestad took the original VW Racing car as a template and picked two cars off the production line in Mexico to transform. The cars didn't have VIN numbers or even a firewall.
With his connections as a VW dealer, he also acquired three sets of all the essential parts so there would be two for each new racecar and a spare. The inventory included shocks, axles and custom kevlar fuel tanks. Eventually, Hagestad Racing built two near-perfect copies of the original German racer.
The team went racing with all three cars for another year. Unfortunately, they encountered engine problems as the World Challenge was growing and changing its rules. The organizers were allowing more horsepower along with turbocharged motors so it became harder for Hagestad to keep up.
In the final season, a member of the Hagestad family passed away and the team left motorsport altogether. The three cars collected dust in the race shop until they were offered for sale two years later.
One was sold to a person in Puerto Rico, while a second went to Christian Miller at 034 Motorsport. The original car remains with the family in a private museum.
New Owner And DriverChristian Miller, a partner and engineer for 034 Motorsport in Fremont, CA, had aspirations to take his racing to a higher level. "This is only my fourth year racing," Christian explained. "After I drove Mazda Miatas for two years I wanted to do bigger things. At the time, I owned a red Jetta and my friends suggested I build that up.
"I remembered Hagestad Racing for its racecars so I looked for photos of the design. Then I ran across an ad showing the cars for sale and called them. Well, I flew down with one of my crew to look at the car. I bought it right there and towed it home. It was much cheaper than if I built my own car."
After buying the Jetta in 4/05, Christian spent the remainder of the year testing in preparation for the '06 season, hiring a fulltime employee to take care of its daily needs. In terms of World Challenge, Christian was short staffed and under budget; the factory Acura team, for example, is reputed to have 15 fulltime employees and a $500,000 budget, excluding sponsorship.
In the face of tough opposition, Christian finished 14th overall in points, but third in the '06 rookie standings. Some highlights included four top-ten finishes. The best race was at Laguna Seca in the rain where he came in sixth behind four manufacturer-backed Acuras and an Audi. As a final note, he also recorded the fastest lap times on virtually every road course in America for a front-wheel drive VW.
Updated FormAs a completed car, one would think there's not much to change or update besides wear and tear. However, this Jetta was outdated several years ago so Christian spent six months improving the car for World Challenge competition.
To start, the front aerodynamics and rear wing were updated for improved downforce. The next major task was the suspension. "The rear suspension was one of the biggest things we were fighting," Christian confessed. "When you get into a corner with sticky tires, the outside tire would load and bend the axle tube, making the toe angle change. The wheels would not point parallel, but would point out. This made the car unpredictable, causing the tires to spin all the time. To fix the problem we took apart the rear suspension and rebuilt the axle. We ground off many welds, added a bunch of bracing and welded the rollcage tubing to the suspension."
Once the rear was fixed, the front geometry was strengthened and balanced with new tubular control arms.
Other changes involved moving the fuel cell further back for better weight distribution, swapping in a six-speed transmission with a Quaife limited-slip differential and updating the rollcage to current SCCA rules.
The biggest adjustment was the motor.It still had the 2.0 16v but World Challenge allowed turbos, so things were going to change. "I began talking to SCCA and World Challenge about building my own engine; after all, that's what we do at 034 Motorsport," he explained. "SCCA explained they prefer manufacturer-built engines because they have specific rules for engines. There's 20 pages of what you can and can't do because several different types of engines have to compete. For example, in stock trim, a Honda Civic, Acura TSX and BMW 325i would have totally different lap times. It's the challenge of SCCA to level the playing field for each car, regardless of what team operates it.
"SCCA recommended Cosworth Technology for the engine build, the same group that built Champion Motorsport's Audi RS6 motors. Eventually, Mahle Automotive bought Cosworth but kept the same group of engineers. So Mahle assembled an engine program strictly for Christian, and provided track support at every race.
The engine is a 225hp 1.8T motor from an Audi TT. The block uses factory crank, rod, pistons, cams and valves because of the SCCA regulations. Despite these limitations, Mahle was able to alter the turbocharger and exhaust manifold. The motor uses a custom Mahle cast manifold and an IHI VF30 turbocharger from a Subaru STi. The turbo provides 275-330hp. "The reason they use this turbo is because it's efficient and has little lag," Christian noted. "It doesn't make a lot of power, but doesn't need to."
With a fine-tuned and balanced sedan, 300hp was enough for Christian to tackle the best road courses in America. He's thinking of retiring the car for '07, but we hope he continues to race. More people like Christian need to step forward in World Challenge and make the VW brand a feared motorsports competitor.
Tech SpecChristian Miller
Location: Fremont, CA
Occupation: Partner of 034 Motorsport and World Challenge Driver
1999 VW JettaEngine: sealed Mahle 1.8T engine with Pectel management, Mahle exhaust manifold, IHI VF30 turbocharger, custom 3" aluminum intercooler plumbing and front-mount intercooler, C&R aluminum radiator and oil cooler, custom 3" downpipe and exhaust
Driveline: 02M six-speed manual transmission, Quaife limited-slip differential
Suspension: Ohlins race shocks, Custom Motorsport adjustable front and rear sway bars, Eibach race springs, 034 Motorsport tubular front control arms, geometry-correcting drop spindles, reinforced rear axle beam and full spherical bearings for all bushings
Wheels & Tires: 17x8" Rota Subzero wheels, 235/40-17 Toyo RA-1 tires (World Challenge spec)
Brakes: Tilton pedal set with dual AP Racing master cylinders, Alcon brake calipers and rotors, Pagid racing brake pads
Exterior: stitch-welded chassis, lightened doors and chassis, AP Racing air jacks, OE VW Votex front bumper, 034 Motorsport carbon front splitter, Realtime Racing rear wing (World Challenge spec), carbon hood, lexan windows, VW GLI tail lights and trim, Audi Nimbus grey paint
Interior: VWR Design 14-point rollcage, Momo race seat, OMP steering wheel, Schroth six-point harness, Stack dash and data acquisition system, carbon switch panel, fire suppression system, Fuel-Safe fuel cell, surge tank and Bosch Motorsport fuel pump, carbon braided fuel lines, TEKK on-board communications
Contact: www.034motorsport.com, 510/657-6707