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VW’S hottest hatch smashes front-wheel-drive Nurburgring lap record

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 05 May 2016
The old and the new as a first generation Volkswagen Golf (right) drives alongside the new Golf GTI Clubsport S on Nurburgring.

The old and the new as a first generation Volkswagen Golf (right) drives alongside the new Golf GTI Clubsport S on Nurburgring.

VOLKSWAGEN has snatched Nurburgring’s front-wheel drive lap record off Honda with a special Golf GTI — named the Clubsport S.

Driven by German racing driver Benny Leuchter, the most powerful Golf GTI ever, smashed the existing lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 7 minutes, 49.21 sec, half a second faster than Honda managed with a pre-production version of its latest Civic Type R.

Built to commemorate the humble GTI’s 40th anniversary, the stripped-down hot hatch is powered by a retuned version of the brand’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces a whopping 305hp and 380Nm of torque.

It has a top speed of 260kmh and is able to sprint from 0-100kmh in just 5.8 seconds, 0.7 seconds quicker than the stock GTI.

The Clubsport S’ weight trimming exercise saw engineers strip out the rear seats, central armrest, sound insulation, rear parcel shelf and floor mats and putting in a smaller battery.

Just 400 will be made with 100 reserved for sale in Germany, the company said in a statement.

As a significant car, Motorme is presenting full details of the Clubsport S.

1. The most powerful Golf GTI ever breaks the lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, with a time of 07:49:21.

2. Only 400 of the limited edition Golf GTI Clubsport S, which delivers 305hp/380Nm (at between 1,700 and 5,300 rpm) and can go from 0-100 km/h in just 5.8 seconds, will be made.

3. The Golf GTI Clubsport S has a Nürburgring setting, which can be accessed using the driving profile selector.

4. The Nürburgring setting fine tunes the adaptive chassis control DCC, engine, steering and sound to suit the Nordschleife.

5. The chassis of the Golf GTI Clubsport S was fine-tuned in extensive racetrack tests and completely reconfigured.

6. With the EU unladen weight reduced to 1,285 kg, the 305hp results in a sports car power-to-weight ratio of 4.15 kg/PS. (EU unladen weight incl. driver and luggage: 1,360 kg).

7. New exhaust system sees tail pipes with an enlarged cross-section produce strong backfire when braking.

8. The Golf GTI Clubsport S is a two-door, two-seat car, with the rear seats removed to save weight.

9. The Golf GTI Clubsport S comes with 19-inch alloy wheels (“Pretoria”) and semi-slicks.

10. The production number 001/400 to 400/400 in the interior reveals that the car is an exclusive special edition.

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Nürburgring setting. As a world exclusive, the Golf GTI Clubsport S comes with a setting for the most demanding race track in the world, which can be accessed using the driving profile selector. This is possible because the car is fitted as standard with the individually configurable Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and a driving profile selector. In the ‘Individual’ driving profile, the engineers have developed a setting that is fine-tuned to suit the unique conditions of the Nürburgring.

Over and above that, the driving profiles Comfort, Normal and Race are also available. Of course the driver can still adjust the settings in the Individual profile, as usual and can revert to the Nürburgring setting at any time before driving onto on the Nordschleife by resetting the Individual profile on the touchscreen menu. This unique configuration switches the Sound, Engine and Steering (fitted with progressive steering as standard) parameters in the Race profile as well as DCC to Comfort. However, in this instance an entirely different group of settings is hidden behind this option, instead of the normal Race and Comfort settings.

Engine specifications. The development team exploited synergies between motorsport and production vehicles in enhancing the engine performance, as they could draw on their experience with the 243 kW/330 PS/410 Nm Golf GTI TCR – the new racing car for the TCR International Series.

This also gave them the opportunity to boost the engine to a permanent 310 PS and 380 Nm and at the same time include the race set-up of the Golf GTI TCR from the Saloon Car Championship. In detail, the engineers achieved this boost in performance by adaptation of the engine control unit and the use of a new exhaust system, with a diameter ahead of the exhaust tailpipes of 65 instead of 55 mm, thus reducing the exhaust backpressure and increasing the performance. A side effect of the modifications was that the exhaust system produces a wonderful and deliberate ‘backfire’ when braking.

This is particularly true for the Race driving profile (along with extra features such as higher engine speed etc.), in which the Golf GTI Clubsport S is tuned to have maximum performance and extremely agile throttle response, just like the Nürburgring setting. In the course of the modifications the engineers also integrated a new fuel pump with increased throughput. The engine of the front-wheel drive Golf GTI Clubsport S is technically based on the 1,984 cc TSI engine that also powers the other versions of the Golf GTI and the Golf R. This is a third generation EA888 engine, and it boasts technical refinements such as a water-cooled exhaust channel to the turbocharger that is integrated in the cylinder head and variable valve timing with dual camshaft adjustment.

Exterior specifications. The other specifications of the most exclusive Golf GTI include the following exterior details: semi-slicks (Michelin Sport Cup 2) mounted on 19-inch “Pretoria” alloy wheels, tinted rear windows (65 per cent light-absorbing), “Clubsport S” type plates, the black painted roof (also for the red and white model) as well as Xenon headlights with cornering lights and LED daytime running lights. The 17-inch brake system was also modified and is particularly stable on racing circuits, to withstand the high temperatures of the brake components. The brake bells are made of aluminium; the friction ring made of cast steel is connected to these aluminium brake covers by cast locating pins and are thus able to expand radially when they heat up. Further advantages of the new brake discs include well controlled dosage of braking force as well as stability. An important factor for the car’s dynamic handling is that the unsprung mass of each wheel is a whole kilogram lower thanks to the aluminium brake covers. To further improve the hot braking performance, the Golf GTI Clubsport S also leaves the factory with special brake pads on the front and rear axles.

Interior specifications. Each of the 400 Golf GTI Clubsport S cars made will have its production number (001/400 to 400/400) on the centre console in the front. The driver and the front seat passenger sit in racing bucket seats that provide the necessary lateral support while flying over the Nordschleife. Also on board are the GTI insignia featured in the “normal” Golf GTI Clubsport, including the iconic golf ball gear knob with Alcantara trim, a red line in the safety belts, “Honeycomb 40” design decals (dashboard and doors) as well as elegant accents in Piano Black. Ergonomically designed for optimal performance on the racetrack, the extremely grippy Alcantara-trimmed sport steering wheel (with a chrome GTI emblem, red stitching and 12-o’clock mark) as well as stainless steel door sill plates with red GTI lettering.

From GTI Performance to the GTI Clubsport S. The idea for the Golf GTI Clubsport S originated when the team responsible for the “normal” GTI at Volkswagen tested the final version of the current Golf GTI Performance on the racetrack. “It was obvious to all of us that this GTI had immense potential”, recalls Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Chassis Tuning, “so we decided to get the most performance possible out of this car. A small team went through the entire process, from bottom to top, pretty much like it was back when the first Golf GTI came into being.” In addition to the weight reduction and the improvement in performance already described above, two factors are of fundamental importance when it comes to designing a really fast car: optimal aerodynamics and an outstanding chassis, both of which are characteristics of the new Golf GTI Clubsport S.

Aerodynamics. Volkswagen was able to draw on the modifications already implemented in the Golf GTI Clubsport. Both versions – the “Clubsport” and the “Clubsport S” – are characterised by completely new front bumpers. The new design offers improvements in air supply to the engine, aerodynamics and downforce at the front. At the rear, the roof-edge spoiler that was aerodynamically perfected in the wind tunnel, and is significantly larger on the Clubsport versions than its counterpart on the Golf GTI and Golf GTI Performance, results in significantly optimised aerodynamics. There is a narrow air gap between the roof area, that is completely black, and the wing-like spoiler placed above it. The two-part roof edge spoiler extends upward above the roof line. At the sides, the spoiler merges into the black flaps on the boot lid. Multi-part spoilers of this type are complex components that perfectly fulfil the aerodynamic tasks assigned to them: to significantly increase downforce on the rear axle. A black rear diffuser is also included in this design and aerodynamics concept. To fine-tune the Clubsport versions to give them extra stability, the aerodynamics measures generate more downforce on the rear axle than on the front axle. This boost in driving stability, especially on the rear axle, is used to fine-tune the chassis to make for a smoother ride. In the case of the Golf GTI Clubsport S this means that the understeer so typical of front-wheel-drive cars is practically eliminated.

Chassis. The new Golf GTI Clubsport S has a special sport chassis. The chassis experts also reconfigured both of the axles of the Golf GTI Clubsport S. Take, for example, the rear axle: the modular performance axle has been given extra potential for directional control in order to achieve higher lateral accelerations. But without altering the McPherson front axle this would result in greater understeer. As Karsten Schebsdat, the chassis expert, explains: “To neutralise the understeer and at the same time boost grip levels, we counteracted understeer on the front axle and specially designed the hub carriers”, resulting in higher camber angles. The negative camber increases the potential for directional control, thus optimising the grip on the front axle. The Clubsport S is characterised by similarly good balance to the “normal” Clubsport, even at higher levels of lateral acceleration, allowing even higher cornering speeds. Braking performance was also perfected, in particular to prevent the rear-end from breaking away, especially when braking into very fast corners. Combined with the aerodynamics measures, this results in the driver being able to brake into bends with the Golf GTI Clubsport S in a controlled way, without losing driving stability, resulting in extremely good driveability up to the limits and a lap time around the Nordschleife of just 07:49:21.

Traction control: Even at full acceleration the car has yet better traction due to the modified chassis tuning and the semi-slicks. Volkswagen was also able to fine-tune the ESC software on this basis: Even though the traction control intervenes later in the Golf GTI Clubsport S and the torque is reduced less, when it does intervene, the “wheel hop” of the front wheels, typical of powerful front-wheel drive cars at maximum acceleration, is practically eliminated. This noticeable effect is similar to that of Launch Control in automatic cars. The acceleration boost is perfected by harder engine mounts, a new pendulum support (a coupling rod between the transmission and front axle) as well as a reinforced transmission. Other important elements include the XDS+ vehicle dynamics function and the front differential lock, which also comes as standard.

Front differential lock. Compared to purely mechanical locks, the front differential lock integrated in the Golf GTI Clubsport and the Golf GTI Clubsport S has a variable degree of locking and comprehensively integrates with the functions of ESC, EDS and XDS+. This makes it possible to completely avoid negative effects on steering precision that would otherwise occur with mechanical locks.

ESC Sport. As is the case for the other GTI versions, Volkswagen also offers the ‘ESC Sport’ function for very experienced drivers. In the Golf GTI Clubsport S. The system is activated by a two-stage switch on the centre console. When the driver presses this switch briefly, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) switches to the ‘ESC Sport’ mode. In very fast driving with lots of bends – such as on the Nordschleife – ESC responds later and thereby enables even more agile handling characteristics. If the driver pushes the switch for more than three seconds, the ESC system is completely deactivated. Now the GTI can be driven to the limit at the driver’s own discretion, without any regulating interventions. As an alternative to operation via the push-button switch on the centre console, the ESC can also be activated or deactivated in the settings on the car menu.
Nürburgring Nordschleife setting.

Most racetracks in the world have hardly any major bumps or height differences. Not so on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, where there are plenty of both, and innumerable curves on top of that. The result of this is a unique combination of sections with lateral dynamics and vertical dynamics. So a car tuned to drive on the Nürburgring needs, on the one hand, to be able to take bends at high speed, while at the same time being able to cope with extreme bumps and height differences. In other words: if a car is fine-tuned for driving on normal racetracks, then the chassis is normally made pretty hard, but this isn’t helpful on the Nordschleife. Rather, the suspension needs to absorb the bumps so that the wheels are guided perfectly ahead on the track, meaning that the car needs to be fairly soft vertically, but at the same time stiff when it comes to lateral dynamics. This is exactly what the Volkswagen engineers managed to take into account when fine tuning the spring/damper tuning – in particular when it came to the damper tuning of the dynamic chassis control DCC. The system makes it possible to regulate the damping optimally in response to driving conditions, and it is this regulation that has been specifically fine-tuned for the Nordschleife in the Golf GTI Clubsport S Individual driving profile.

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