Racing the Volkswagen GLI and GTI

Drew with VW

So far this year, I’ve visited several enthusiast gatherings and seen some extraordinary, street-legal Volkswagens from all across the nation. While seeing them displayed was great, I wanted to get a better feel for how these cars perform. Therefore, it was a natural progression for me to experience these cars driven on a track. In the U.S., Volkswagen sponsors the Pirelli World Challenge Series, a race series that visits eight tracks this year with many independent teams racing GLIs and GTIs. This series offers teams, manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers a chance to validate their vehicles and performance products in a competitive setting.

Each race lasts approximately 50 minutes; the number of laps and total distance is determined by each track’s configuration, lap times and race conditions. There are four vehicle classes: the highly modified “Grand Touring” (GT) class, the slightly less tuned “Grand Touring Sport” (GTS) class, the nearly stock “Touring Car” (TC) class, and the compact “Touring Car B-Spec” (TCB) class.

Volkswagen competes in the TC class, which has 25 privateer teams entered for 2012. The body styles permitted in this class are coupes, hatchbacks, wagons and sedans. Qualified vehicles must have OEM seating for four adults with power output ranging from 180 to 260 horsepower. Each car’s weight fluctuates depending on the horsepower to keep power-to-weight ratios close between the different models and powertrains. Turbo chargers and super chargers are permitted as long as the vehicle comes with the system from the factory and do not void the manufacturers’ warranties.

In addition to being given the opportunity to race some of the most fun-to-drive cars on the track, the teams that race V-dub vehicles receive the best contingency payout in the TC class, directly from Volkswagen. Payouts are awarded to the first through fifth place teams, with $15,000 going to a VW race winner and $2,500 going to a VW pole position leader. In addition, if a Volkswagen wins the 2012 Manufacturers’ Championship, $25,000 will be divided between all the VW teams that contributed points during the season.

After the most recent race at Laguna Seca, I caught up with Tristan Herbert, driver of the #33 HPA Motorsports Volkswagen Jetta GLI, to discuss the race specifications of his car. Surprisingly enough, it’s not highly modified and remains close to what you’d find in a 2012 GLI at a dealership. One of the greatest advantages to racing the GLI is the stock DSG transmission. It gives Tristan faster, more precise shifts without having to deal with a third pedal, allowing him to focus on other facets of racing, such as braking points and corner exit speed. The HPA Motorsports team added a roll cage and changed the suspension to a three-way adjustable to allow for different types of tracks and conditions throughout the year. They also added a race seat and took out much of the interior (rear and passenger seats, dash, etc.) and installed lightweight 17” racing wheels to reduce weight down to approximately 2,700 lbs. Lastly, Tristan pointed out the three inch straight pipe exhaust coming off the turbo for increased airflow and greater horsepower from his sponsor HPA Motorsports calibrations – roughly 260 charging ponies!

Currently the season is about halfway through, with Tristan Herbert leading the way for Volkswagen in third place overall. Check out the video below along with the schedule so you can follow the second half of the season and root on your favorite VW teams.

Which race would you like to attend?

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