Bill Ford coined the phrase: "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." The only problem is that manufacturer-led motorsport has gone so far beyond the cars we drive on the street that it has become nothing more than a brand-building exercise. Anyone who genuinely believes their 3 Series feels the benefits of the F1 program probably still watches the chimney at Christmas for those tell-tale black boots and red trousers.
Those with a big enough bank balance, though, could walk into the Tuner Grand Prix garage, lay a pile of cash on the table, strip the numbers from a car and drive it home. Calling this motorsport could be stretching it. It's a pure demonstration of tuning expertise, the only time when tuners truly go to war to show the crowds how effective their modifications truly are.
And once again, Cargraphic stood tall.The company, run by brothers Michael and Thomas Schnarr, has made the event its own-winning the GT class for three consecutive years. With just two months to develop the Dunlop-backed 997 GT3 RS that replaced the all-conquering 996, it was a nervous time as Marc Basseng took to the track.
The event is a time attack and, following free practice, the drivers get just 30 minutes to put in a hot lap of the Hockenheim circuit. With 10 separate classes, there are intriguing battles to be had between hot hatches, diesels, high-powered GTs and even SUVs with brave drivers drifting two tons of metal on the ragged edge of adhesion round the Sachs Kurve.
It's an almighty sight watching a Cayenne on opposite lock with smoke pouring from the tires. SpeedART driver and SEAT Cupra Cup competitor, Fredy Barth, showed a gigantic set to win that battle by nine-tenths of a second. But the GT class provides the true heavyweight battles everyone comes to see.
And Cargraphic won with ease. Halfway through the session, the event became a foregone conclusion. Basseng was racing himself and finished with a three-second margin of victory.
"We came here looking for something under one minute, nine seconds, and that's exactly what we've got," said Michael. "All our partners have done an amazing job and we are so happy. But there's more to come from this car-we're still learning it after all."
This should have been a devastating blow for the opposition, but it wasn't. Bizarrely, everyone knew Cargraphic was bringing its race-bred GT3 RSC conversion, and the likes of TechArt still came with a much heavier, slower Porsche Turbo knowing it would get blown off the map by Basseng.
"We are the fastest Turbo," explained Ralph Niese, our friend at TechArt, after half an hour of watching Frank Schmickler push his 997 GT Street to the very limit. "Maybe the crowds don't appreciate what is going on, but the people who buy the cars see that our Turbo is the fastest by a clear 1.6 seconds, and we'll do business as a result."
Neither did MTM care that its RS4 Clubsport was destroyed (to the tune of seven seconds) by the Donkervoort in the Open Class, which it was forced to enter thanks to a lack of rear seats, eliminating it from the limousine duel that would have been a banker. It had the fastest Audi and its RS4 wiped the floor with a Lotus Exige, three heavily tuned Mitsubishi Evos, and even a 997 GT3.
MTM's A6 also finished dangerously close to a Schnitzer-tuned BMW 335 in the diesel class, despite extra weight and the less sporting nature of the base car. Folks with money remember such things. Winning is a surefire guarantee the phone will ring off the hook for weeks. "This event is fantastic for business, because it's one of the only times tuners come together to put cars head-to-head," said Cargraphic's Michael Schnarr. "You cannot underestimate the difference this makes to sales."
Cargraphic will do fantastic business after taking victory in the GT and Coupe/Cabriolet class with the RSC 3.8 based on a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, in a result publicized around the world.
The whole crowd will remember the sound of the MTM-tuned Audi S1 rally car that turned out to wow them. Sounding dangerously like the Millennium Falcon, the S1 was a blast from the past and a brutal work of art. Cargraphic brought its GT3 RSR racecar for some hot demonstration laps.
When the fun was over with the Tuner GP itself, there was still plenty of action in the Sport Auto Drift Challenge. In previous years, this had been nothing more than a sideshow, with the same drivers and cars coming out to let it all hang loose after the serious business. Not this time, despite the special tires that give off red smoke.
Drifting now has a foothold in Europe and competitors are taking it seriously. Entries came from as far as America and Japan to show their skills. It's a surreal feeling, watching an aging BMW M3 and Toyota Corolla clean up, blowing $250,000 supercars off the track in the hands of drifting pros. Irishman Darren McNamara took top honors with the Corolla, followed by Dutchman Remmo Niezen in his M3.
Let's all make a date for next year.