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First Tuner GP - Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Greg Emmerson
Mar 6, 2013
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It's been an epic four weeks, organizing our first Tuner GP, conducting the RS5 comparo and building several cars for the SEMA show. The latter will be common knowledge by the time you read this and include the Porsche 911 "rally" we built with GSR Autosport and featured in the previous issue, as well as a VW Beetle and Ford Focus ST. Yes, we know the ST has a blue oval but it's more Dagenham than Detroit. We'll look at the builds next month.

The RS5 comparison was one of the highlights of my career. Not simply for the incredible cars we had the privilege to drive but also the epic scenery of the Sequoia National Forest. Being in the presence of such giants was like nowhere we'd ever experienced. It was humbling and extraordinary. If you've never been, you have no excuses. It will alter your perspective.


As for the Tuner GP, it was a marvellous opportunity to represent the new EC mag with cars encompassing our wider catchment, with everything from a Porsche 911 turbo and Mercedes CLS63 AMG to the VW Golf R and R32. The event formerly belonged to eurotuner magazine but we've incorporated it into EC because it's a wonderful way to showcase the talents of the best European tuners in North America.

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I won't spoil it for you, but some of the lap times on Continental's ExtremeContact DW tires were equivalent to what dedicated racecars are achieving on R-compound rubber, such is the power and preparation of the cars we tested. With such variety of machinery, it's not a race, and there's no obvious winner. However, we hope you can use our data to establish which of these cars best represents the path you might want to take with your own.

Traditionally, the event would add drag racing to the dyno and track days. However, Southern California has a deficit of quarter-mile strips, so we had to eliminate it this year. That said, we'd like to hear from you whether you think it should return, or if you feel the remaining disciplines give you the whole story. Our competitors were split: some missed the drama on the drag strip, while others were happy to preserve clutches, driveshafts and valvetrains for the preferred track day.

Forget what you might have read on a forum, or information posted by friends of the company, ECGP12 represents what these engine and chassis can achieve in the real world without the BS. Many of the teams were using race gas, but mostly to preserve engine life by avoiding detonation in the unseasonably dry and hot LA weather. Yes, there are some benefits in output over 91-octane pump gas, but primarily the teams run race fuel for reliability, and recommend their customers do the same at the track, where under-hood temps can soar.

We'd like to thank all the teams who turned out for ECGP12, for all the sacrifices they made and the cost of competing. We also have to thank Conti - we literally couldn't do it without them - and the tires they supply ensure all competitors have an equal chance to shine on the track.

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We can't forget Church Automotive Testing either. In past years we've had some inconsistent dyno results, but its bolt-on Dynapacks gave the most reliable numbers we've ever seen from this many cars...


The story of Uwe Gemballa's mysterious death and the subsequent rebirth of his company makes a fascinating read elsewhere in this issue. We'd like to have gone into more of the bizarre conspiracy theories but they really don't shed any light on what happened, although we would recommend you set aside 30min for some fascinating web browsing after you're finished reading. More importantly, we look at how the new owners are turning the corner and establishing a solid future for Gemballa and its employees. Equally appealing, though for different reasons, is the story on Slotmods. It's a company born from one man's hobby that's become the undisputed leader in slot car racetracks. If you were like us, winding miles of track through multiple rooms and trying to recreate famous tracks on your bedroom carpet, this story will bring back a lot of fond memories.

If you have any photos of your own slot car tracks, or maybe a train set the world should know about, email us at the address below and we'll devote some space to it.

Greg Emmerson

By Greg Emmerson
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