For the past 11 years, we've ended each year with our Tuner GP. Formerly run under the eurotuner banner, we migrated it to european car magazine last year and will be continuing the tradition into the future.
And while some of the vehicles and faces may change, the concept remains the same - to pit the finest European tuners against one another to see who emerges victorious.
In an arduous battle of muscle and endurance, contestants must compete on the dyno, drag strip and road course. And, for the first time, every entrant made it through all three disciplines.
After a sabbatical last year, drag racing returned with a vengeance, with each competitor eager to show power and traction over our 1000ft course. The reason the event was excluded last year, and why we were on the slightly uphill straight at Willow Springs Raceway this year, is because Southern California, the car capital of the world, doesn't have a quarter-mile strip in regular use. However, we persevered and repurposed the front straight to reinstate the popular challenge.
While we like to think of the Tuner GP as a competition, it's actually more of a shop window. With few cars built to the same specification, we encourage the teams to highlight their engine and chassis tuning abilities. The idea is to show you not only what these modifications are capable of, but also how they stack up against other options.
So if you're thinking about buying a new car and wondering what has the most tuning potential within your budget, these machines should give you a good indication of what's possible.
ECGP is a test of speed, power and poise. We scrutinize the cars on the dyno for outright power and torque, on the dragstrip for power and traction, and finally the road course to examine how the package performs under pressure.
We split the cars into front-, rear- and all-wheel drive classes, with all the cars falling neatly into those categories. Last year's Time Attack and electric vehicle classes weren't needed in 2013, since each team brought more conventional machines based on street cars.
In order to encourage as many entrants as possible and to simplify the process, we impose very few rules. The main one is that each team must use the Continental ExtremeContact DW tires we supply. Furthermore, you can't inject nitrous into the engine (although you can use it as an external cooler). You also can't swap major engine components or software maps on the dyno. In the past, some teams would exchange turbos and software for the different events...
The reason for the Continental Tire provision is that many teams found an advantage in the past with tire choice, which put cars on regular street tires in the slow lane. And while we like to encourage the teams to exploit every avenue to make their cars faster, including drafting in pro drivers if necessary, the tire situation needed to be resolved. The different tire choices were masking the influence of the tuning, so we decided to supply ExtremeContact DW rubber (see sidebar) to concentrate on the engine and suspension work.
Divided into three days of competition, the first was spent on the dyno at Church Automotive Testing in Wilmington, CA. Each team was allowed three pulls to ensure the ECUs had adapted and to check for potential problems. As we said, there's no tuning allowed between runs, but faults, blown hoses, etc, can be rectified.
The drag racing took place on the front straight at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA. The facility has its own light tree and timing beams to ensure accurate results. With an unprepared surface, slight uphill climb and only run over 1000ft to ensure a safe braking zone before Turn 1, these results aren't comparable with conventional quarter-mile times but could be used to assess each vehicle on the day.
For the road course we moved to the tight and technical Streets of Willow circuit located on the same premises as Willow Springs. Its tight turns and high-speed sections are a tough test of chassis balance and engine power. We prefer it to the faster SoCal tracks because it should give the less powerful teams an equal chance of victory.
And while the Tuner GP pits teams against each other, we have to acknowledge the generous spirit and camaraderie among the competitors. Teams would offer help and loan tools to ensure that everybody was able to compete at the highest level. It's a pleasure to spend time with these guys and we'd like to thank them for taking part in our event.
That said, we wanted to reward excellence, so the class winner of each discipline was awarded a plaque, along with a special trophy for the overall event winner.
Turn the page to discover you how each team fared on the three days. We also have team profiles, car spec and the overall results for you to fully understand what went into building these amazing cars, and how they fared in ECGP13.
Providing a control tire for the european car Tuner GP means we can focus on the parts each tuner has fitted, rather than be distracted by the rubber he's chosen. A mix of tires in the past would sometimes flatter a less powerful car or condemn some teams to the bottom of the results list. By specifying the Continental DW tires, it has given us a much better indication of how the tuner's components are working together.
With such high-performance cars, it was important that we selected tires capable of meeting the requirements, rather than leaving the competitors sliding off the track. Fortunately, we were fortunate enough to establish a relationship with Continental Tires several years ago, and we've stuck with them ever since.
The ExtremeContact DW is considered an ultra-high performance street tire. It's well suited to modified street cars, yet also able to withstand the considerable abuse from drag racing and a full track day. In fact, these tires have allowed the competitors to set some very fast times that are comparable to dedicated race rubber.
We approached Continental back in 2009 about using its DW tires after a group test we conducted at eurotuner magazine with Tire Rack. Against ten rivals, the DW was found to be the best high-performance tires for both wet and dry conditions, offering good braking performance and turn-in grip.
Although we didn't need the DW's wet weather abilities, the GP competitors appreciated the high levels of predictable grip. Admittedly, they're not as single-minded as R-compound track tires many of the teams are familiar with, but they quickly learn to adapt to the different compound.
Many of the teams are surprised at how long a set of tires lasts and by the predictable behavior, even past the limit. The teams also need stability under high braking forces as well as consistent cornering ability, and the Conti DW provides both, with almost no spins during the track sessions to prove the point. What's more, when the tires do finally let go under severe stress, they respond predictably and give the drivers plenty of feedback.
To prove their ability, many drivers continue to use the tires after our event, with some putting them to daily use and continuing to enter track days.
During its construction, Continental ensures the ExtremeContact DW (meaning Dry and Wet) provides both a lower rolling resistance and improved tread life than most of its competitors. It has a 340 UTQG rating, which means they should last many thousands of miles under normal conditions. What's more, there are indicators within the tread blocks to show drivers when the optimum tread depth has been exceeded for both dry and wet conditions.