By now, you know european car magazine incorporated eurotuner.com several months ago, with our editorial team working on both titles. One of eurotuner's most popular events was its annual Tuner GP, so we decided to continue it under the EC banner since it's a great showpiece for many of North America's best European tuners.
As a result, the format of the event is very similar to how it was at eurotuner, with shops invited to compete on the dyno and road course against one another. We used to incorporate drag racing as well, to give the teams a greater challenge, but dragstrips are virtually extinct in Southern California, so we dropped it for this year, hoping to bring it back in 2013.
The Tuner GP isn't a competition as such, since no two cars are the same. It's more of a grudge match, with the teams competing to highlight their engine and chassis tuning abilities.
We split the cars into rear- and all-wheel drive classes, with a Time Attack class for cars that don't see street use and a new electric vehicle class. However, ECGP is designed to demonstrate how the various modifications perform in real-world tests. So if you're thinking about tuning your R32 or M3, you might like to consider some of the engine or chassis mods featured here.
The Tuner GP is a great opportunity to examine specific tuning packages and discover whether they meet the tuner's claims. And while the team with the best numbers has something to brag about, it's not the whole story. For example, cars that do well in each discipline are likely to be highly focused track cars that might not translate well to the street. But by measuring power and lap times, you can see which package delivers the most overall, or in the specific area you want. But it's worth remembering that the Time Attack cars are stripped out, lightweight machines, whereas most of the other classes represent street cars with full interiors, steel body panels, etc. This is what you'll be driving, unless you're looking to build a dedicated track car.
ECGP is designed to let you browse tuning conversions under the harshest conditions and decide what modifications or base vehicle would work best for you and your requirements
ECGP is a test of speed, power and poise. We scrutinize the cars on the dyno for outright power and torque, and on the road course to see how the total package performs under pressure.
In order to accommodate such a variety of cars, we really don't impose many rules. You must use the Continental ExtremeContact DW tires we supply to each team, and you can't inject nitrous into the engine (although you can use it as an external cooler).
In the past, tuners were allowed to swap components or software maps on the dyno, but we've removed this ability to ensure the cars remain in the same tune throughout the event.
Previously, some teams would find an advantage with tire choice, making cars on street tires the underdogs. So we teamed up with Continental Tire to supply its ExtremeContact DW rubber to all the teams. These are considered an ultra-high performance street tire, well suited to modified street cars, yet they also withstand considerable abuse from the Time Attack cars, allowing them to record some very fast times that are comparable to dedicated race rubber.
On the dyno day at Church Automotive Testing, teams were allowed three pulls to ensure the ECUs had adapted and to check for any potential problems. As we said, this year there was no tuning allowed between runs, but faults, blown hoses, etc, could be rectified on the spot.
For the road course we visited the tight and technical Streets of Willow. It's a relatively short track but its demanding turns and high-speed corners are a great test of chassis balance over engine power, which is why we choose it rather than some of the faster SoCal tracks. It gives the less powerful teams an equal chance to shine, instead of the more powerful cars simply blowing them away on the straights. We're not simply looking for the fastest and most powerful cars here.
Turn the page to discover how each team did on the dyno and road course. We also have a profile of the teams as well as the overall results and a spec list for you to better understand what went into building these remarkable cars, and how they fared in our 2012 Tuner GP.
Continental tires ExtremeContact DW
Specifying a control tire for the Tuner GP meant we can focus on what parts the tuner has fitted, rather than the rubber he's chosen. A mix of tires in the past was either flattering or condemning some teams, so the standardization of the Continental DW gives us a better indication of how the tuner's components are working together.
With such high-performance machinery, it was vital for us to choose tires that were equal to the task, rather than leaving the competitors scrabbling for grip. So we've been fortunate to forge a relationship with Continental Tires for the past few years.
We initially approached Conti for the ExtremeContact DW tires because they'd performed very well in a group test we conducted at eurotuner magazine in collaboration with Tire Rack. In fact, they won the last Tire Test we conducted in 2009 against ten of the latest high-performance tires in both wet and dry conditions.
The Continental ExtremeContact DW was declared the overall winner thanks to its abilities in mixed weather conditions, as well as good braking performance and turn-in grip.
And although the Tuner GP remained hot and dry all day, the DW's abilities were appreciated by GP competitors who experienced high levels of predictable grip. The teams needed to keep the car stable under high braking forces, while also requiring strong and consistent cornering ability. What's more, when the tires do finally let go under severe provocation, they respond predictably to give the drivers plenty of feedback. In fact, the number of drivers drifting through turns after their timed sessions suggested they were very comfortable with the tires' performance.
Continental ensures the DW (meaning Dry and Wet) provides both a lower rolling resistance and improved tread life than its competitors. It has a 340 UTQG rating, which means they should last many thousands of miles under normal conditions. There are different indicators within the tread blocks themselves to alert drivers to when the tires have exceeded their optimum tread depth for both dry and wet conditions.
To verify the treadwear, one of our GP drivers reported that he was still using the DW tires we provided last year. Not only had they completed a full track day, but he then put them on his daily driver and will even participate in track days on them up to a year later!