The old adage "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" is as true today as it has ever been. Racing successfully in the ALMS, first with Porsche and then Audi, Champion Motorsport used its wins to leverage their entry into the Porsche tuning aftermarket.
The one stumbling block to selling parts to other Porsche dealers in the United States was the fact that sister company, Champion Porsche, was the number one Porsche dealer here, and was thus seen as a competitor.
"The marketing game plan had to change, so we sat down, thought about it, and came up with the name Werks One name," Champion boss Naveen Maraj explains. "I knew we could not be a TechArt or Gemballa, and so did not set out with the aim of building a complete car as they do. Instead, we identified areas where we felt a 911 could be made more focused for the true enthusiast."
To achieve this, he employed more engineering staff, some coming from the racing department. When the team got to the point where Maraj was comfortable with the way things were progressing, the decision was made to commit to building a proper demo car to which all the finished parts could be fitted. And so the Werks One K1 with F77 engine power kit was officially born.
"We started with a brand -new Turbo and repainted it gray," Maraj says. "In fact it is a classic Porsche 356 shade."
One signature Werks One product is the distinctive carbon airbox with ITG high-flow air filters. Airflow to and through intake systems is a highly specialised science. Some would argue that it is as much art as science, and here Werks One called in a specialist, RennTech's Hartmut Feyhl, to help them design the systems.
"It is also important for us that every component fits perfectly to the original factory mounting points," Maraj notes. "We do not want to make any modifications to the car."
One of the engineers showed me how fast and easy it is to fit an airbox to a Carrera; he had the stock unit out and the carbon replacement fitted in what amounted to two and a half minutes.
"The dealers will not be happy with us for that because it means they can't charge for an hour's labor," Maraj jokes.Werks One's real focus, however, is more on the Turbo, as you can do so much more to boost its performance.
"Because of our motorsport experience, we had some of the most knowledgeable race engineers on call, but we had never done an aero package for a road car before," Maraj recounts. "As we could not get the dimensional info from Porsche, we effectively reverse engineered the car using a CMM digitizing arm, and then used the resulting data as the basis for our calculations on how the aero components would look and perform."
His aerodynamicists knew the direction to go, and this saved a lot of time. Then the designs were fed into a CAD/CAM system, and the rapid prototyping machine created dimensionally perfect mock-ups that could be attached to the real car for testing. That testing took place in a wind tunnel in North Carolina-NASCAR country-and quickly established that the aero parts had a positive effect on downforce.
Durability is always an issue. With a background in long distance racing, the team was well placed to meet this challenge and set out to create new parts that would perform with no compromises. However, Maraj is a perfectionist who is harder to please than even his fussiest customers. So while those who saw and drove the development car were impressed, he felt that they could still do even better.
It was exactly at this time that Louis Milone joined Champion, bringing with him vast experience from stints with some big name race teams. One of the first things the two agreed on was a perception that pervades the U.S. tuning scene.
"There is too much emphasis on excessive horsepower that's simply not needed for real world performance," Milone says. "It is far better to have 550 useable horses than 700 that you have difficulty deploying.
"Telling the truth about power output is very important for us, even if customers ask why our numbers are slightly smaller than those claimed by our rivals. We spend a lot of time explaining to would-be clients that our numbers are real and reproducible, and that their cars will be fast and drivable in the real world where it counts."
Another objective was creating parts that could be sold worldwide and easily fitted by any competent shop or even an experienced DIY mechanic owner. At the same time, other than the ECU remapping, servicing can be carried out normally, so you don't need to bring the car back to Champion for service.
The F77 engine upgrade package starts with the carbon airbox. A slightly larger than stock 82mm carbon Y-pipe is linked to a bored-out 82mm throttle body and T-pipe. This combination gives a worthwhile power increase, even when used with the stock turbos.Werks One offers two different exhaust systems for the Turbo, both made in Italy by Tubi Style. The first is a road system with 200-cell metal catalysts; the one fitted to this car is a race setup with no catalysts and inconel tubular headers with full merge collectors.
The Werks One Turbo uses a blow-off valve physically separate from the turbo housing, and the same unit will fit both generations of the 997 Turbo motor with just slightly different CNC machining on the housing. These parts can even be anodized in different colors if the customer so wishes.
The factory VTG turbos have an inherent power ceiling around 550 hp, so Werks One set out to build a bespoke unit with a 63.5mm billet compressor wheel for higher output applications. "We have a few prototype units out there on customer cars to test the bearings in everyday conditions," Milone says. "So far they have performed perfectly."
The Werks One high efficiency intercooler is Naveen's favorite component. He enthusiastically led me to the room behind the workshop where these bespoke intercooler arrays are assembled. The engineers found a way to increase the surface area for a given physical size of intercooler, and the statistics are eye opening. The core of a Werks One intercooler has 36 percent higher volume, with 40 percent greater flow capacity, while its cast aluminum end tanks have 220 percent greater volume on the inlet side and 75 percent more volume on the outlet end.
These numbers achieve an inlet temperature reduction of up to 50°F. This means the Werks One Turbo doesn't have to run boost as high as some rivals for the same power, which is good news, especially when ambient temperatures are high.
It also means the engine can safely sustain higher boost pressures, and more aggressive ignition timing can be dialed in at low rpm for even better response. ECU mapping is done by GIAC in California.
Where a stock Turbo has 480 hp at 6000 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque from 1950 to 5000 rpm, the K1 Turbo boasts 658 hp at 6650 rpm with 631 lb-ft at 3450 rpm. GIAC has a map for the Turbo Tiptronic too.
The team initially experimented with some off-the-shelf uprated suspension solutions. "We tried a nice KW setup that Olaf Manthey put together for us, but found that it did not suit our local roads," Maraj says. "We ended up with custom coilovers using H&R springs and spring perches with stock damper inserts, 997 GT3 Cup front and rear control arms, RSR spherical bearings and H&R 26mm front and 24mm rear adjustable anti-roll bars, and a front strut brace."
The elegant multi-spoke lightweight alloy wheels filling out the arches are Champion Motorsport's Forged Magnesium MS61 design in 9.0x19 and 12.0x19-inch sizes, shod with 235/35 and 305/30 Pilot Sport Cup tires. These feature a black satin finish to contrast with the gray paintwork. The lightweight theme is underlined by a set of Poggipolini titanium wheel bolts.
The total package creates a fine balance between handling and ride for both road and track work, while the stock PCCB brakes are well up to keeping the extra horses in check.
This original Werks One production car now belongs to Tim Lewis Jr., who kindly loaned it to Champion for my test drive. First impressions were of an immaculately turned out car that is quite obviously loved by its owner. Worthy of mention is the way the carbon-fibre front splitter lines up with and fits to the stock front apron. So many aftermarket lips and splitters do not take exactly the same curve as the O.E. front, spoiling the illusion of seamless integration.
The Werks One front splitter is beyond reproach in this respect, as are the underbody diffuser and the rear wing. The carbon components are beautifully made, with a perfect high gloss finish, and as I ran my fingers over their perfect surface, I imagined the satisfying experience of washing and polishing this car following an outing. Full marks to Werks One for an inspiring visual and tactile experience.
When I opened the driver's door, the sight of lightweight Alcantara and leather-trimmed Carrera GT seats raised an eyebrow. This is the first time I have seen these seats fitted to a Turbo. While they are a perfect match for the Alcantara-covered GT3 RS steering wheel, some owners might prefer the 997 GT2 seats with their adjustable seat backs.
Other details include Alcantara covering the door pulls, armrests, gearshift gaiter and handbrake grip, while the factory GT3 RS half-rollcage is powdercoated in matte black, and the interior trim parts are color-coded to the body.
The first thing I noticed after firing up the motor was the free-revving nature of Champion's lighter, single-mass aluminum flywheel. It makes a huge difference in engine response, while the Sachs Sport disc with its modified pressure plate required to take the power and torque still has a fairly moderate operating weight. Werks One uses the factory short-shift kit, and the combination makes for a much more direct and responsive interface between driver and car. Runs through the gears feel much sharper, each upshift like slamming the bolt home on a sniper rifle. Unlike a sniper rifle however, this Turbo is no one-trick pony.
It is truly ballistic down the straights, and the usability of its power is close to absolute. It punches harder than a Carrera GT once the modified turbos are spooled up and blowing hard, and on full noise, the acceleration is really intoxicating. It is one of those cars where you look at a gap in the traffic and you're there.
While the factory suspension on the second-generation 997 Turbo is very good out of the box, I'm not a fan of its predecessor. Excessive weight transfer under hard acceleration and braking, excessive understeer under power in slow bends, and unpredictable torque distribution between front and rear axles when power sliding are not endearing characteristics. In addition, stock PASM had an odd combination of firm secondary ride, yet too much body movement under certain conditions in Comfort mode, while the ride was over-firm in Sport mode.
The Werks One suspension removes all criticisms in one fell swoop, with the bonuses of more consistent body control at all speeds along with better steering feel and response. Some of this improvement is down to the half roll cage and the front strut brace, which combine to stiffen the bodyshell by about 25 percent.
The low-speed ride is no firmer than stock, and nicely rounds off short, sharp bumps. As speed rises, the ride quality stays taut, but the lack of spurious body movement on undulating roads makes it more comfortable. Understeer in the tighter bends is significantly reduced, and together with a pointier front end, you feel far more confident when really pressing on. You could say that the Werks One Turbo feels more like a AWD GT2 than a modified Turbo-no bad thing. The Werks One flagship combines that GT2 agility with the security of all-wheel drive, while delivering punch worthy of a major league supercar costing twice as much.
Despite what Maraj says about not attempting to be a TechArt or Gemballa, his team has succeeded in creating a well-balanced and very fast super-Porsche that can stand toe-to-toe with the best from the established German tuners.
3.6-liter flat six, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled. Werks One carbon airbox, modified VTG turbos, Werks One race exhaust by Tubi Style, Werks One high-efficiency intercooler system, GIAC software
Six-speed manual, Champion Motorsport single-mass flywheel, Sachs Sport clutch disc, OEM short-shift kit
Custom coilovers with H&R springs and spring perches, and stock damper inserts, 997 GT3 Cup front and rear control arms, RSR spherical bearings, H&R 26mm front and 24mm rear adjustable anti-roll bars, front strut brace
OEM PCCB assemblies
Wheels and Tires
Champion Motorsport alloys, 9x19 (f), 12x19 (r) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, 235/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
Werks One front splitter, rear wing, rear diffuser
Carrera GT fixed carbon seats, GT3 RS steering wheel, custom Alcantara trim
Peak Power: 658 hp @ 6650 rpm
Peak Torque: 631 lb-ft @ 3450 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.4 sec.
Top Speed: 198 mph