At every club track event, there's always that one car that draws the most attention. That car is either better looking than the rest, blindingly fast or a combination of the two. At a recent Audi club event at the Streets of Willow in Rosamond, Calif., the 2Bennett Audimotive S4 GTR was that car. Brothers Andrew and Ken Bennett of 2Bennett Audimotive wanted to build a club racer that would showcase the products and services that their Davis, Calif., based shop could offer.
Despite the amount of work that's been put into the platform, possibly the most innovative modifications have been carried out on the vehicle's control input systems. Ken, the car's driver, was paralyzed in a BMX bike accident 10 years ago. "He still has use of his wrists, so we devised a hand control system for him to use," Andrew said of his brother. The butterfly-style steering wheel pivots at the center with a twist throttle on the left side. Braking is achieved by pushing forward on the left side. The steering column has been integrated with a 2-to-1 reduction box to dramatically increase input sensitivity. Shifting is handled by Audi's TipTronic transmission for now, with a new 2Bennett-spec transmission on the way.
Starting with a 2000 B5 S4, the brothers' first priority was to get more rubber to the ground. "Even with the RS4 body panels, the body of the B5 is too narrow for what we believed to be the optimum size race tire," said Ken Bennett. Early in 2004 the two began sketching ideas for custom body panels. Special modeling foam was then carved out based on the drawings and coated with a series of sculpting materials to create plugs for the molds. The molds were then reinforced to ensure consistent shapes for the body panels. The resulting GTR panels were made from carbon fiber and reinforced with Nomex honeycomb at high stress areas.
The custom body work allows the use of shaved Toyo RA 305/35-18s mounted on custom wheels made by Forgeline. "These are the same tires that the Audi World Challenge cars ran on," said Andrew Bennett. His brother added, "We just got a boatload of Hoosier 335/18s at the shop and are looking forward to trying them out." Planned future additions include a carbon-fiber hood, along with a removable front splitter and a rear diffuser. "We wanted to get the wing on to get some additional downforce; I'll get started on the rest when I get some time," Ken said. An eight-point custom GTR roll cage was also installed to add extra rigidity and safety.
The Bennetts have a unique perspective when it comes to developing suspension parts. "We have a 4000 rally car that we product test suspension parts on," Andrew told me with a sly smile. "That usually means we run around until something breaks, then take it back to the shop to figure out how to make it stronger," Ken added. This product testing has led to the 2B Coil Program with special adjustable Koni shocks. Stopping power is provided by lightweight Brembo six-piston calipers which mount directly to the factory uprights without the use of adapter brackets, and custom made 13.8-inch directionally veined and slotted two-piece rotors. The rear brakes were upgraded to two-piece, 12.3-inch vented and slotted rotors. According to Andrew, this is the same braking system that's regularly sold to 2Bennett customers as a bolt-on upgrade for performance-tuned S4 street cars.
A few of the modifications made to the 525 bhp twin-turbo S4 include a modified intake system and an APR programmed computer chip. More significantly, the RS4 turbos have been upgraded with modified turbine compressor wheels so that they can easily put out 25 psi of boost. A front-mount intercooler core was tucked into the front bumper for maximum efficiency. Exhaust is routed out each side through a 2Bennett-designed, turbo-back, dual three-inch exhaust.
What would it take to put a GTR in your garage? "The GTR idea is to take the Audi B5 and have an unlimited modular platform for horsepower, speed, or whatever you want for the track or street," Andrew said. "The body is only the beginning. 2Bennett Audimotive offers engine upgrades up to 700 bhp, roll cages, suspension, brakes and wheels. Every component is designed to work on an integrated basis. We can supply GTR parts or a turn-key racecar with support."
The 2Bennett Audimotive S4GTR is sure to be the envy of the Audi club racing scene as well as a scourge to those competing against it. And speaking of competition, when asked who the better driver is--
"Andrew scares me," Ken said.
"We can't both be in the car at the same time," Andrew interjected. "If something were to happen, there would be no one to run the business." Brothers will be brothers.
For an automotive journalist, the words "Let's go for a ride" can be some of the most fearsome. This phrase usually translates into "I'm going to scare you into soiling your shorts," or "Use the little bag in the door pocket if you feel ill." When Ken Bennett spoke those words as he wheeled behind my back my first reaction was to clench my teeth and tell him my helmet was in the car. After struggling with my chin strap and the five-point harness, making sure that the memory card on my camera wasn't full, and making sure my glasses weren't going anywhere, we began rolling down the pit lane. Hammer down took on a whole new meaning when the GTR launched. I was a little concerned when I looked in the side mirror and saw another Audi swiftly approaching from behind, but the concern quickly faded as I was pinned against the seat. The first corner arrived rapidly. Make no mistake about it--the 2Bennett GTR is one quick machine. On acceleration I didn't feel any turbo lag. The engine just kept on pulling.
The all-wheel drive and Toyo RAs made quick work of turn one. Some of the more technical among us would have used a g-meter to see how well the suspension was keeping the tires in contact with the asphalt, but I had something better: my Canon EOS 1D Mark II. Equipped with a lens and flash, it weighs about four to five pounds. Somewhere around turn four I made the mistake of trying to take some pictures. The camera was nearly ripped out of my hands when Ken flung the GTR into an off-camber right-hander. Good thing I still had the strap around my neck. This acted like a HANS device for the camera, but it didn't do much for my neck. The camera bounced off of the front of my helmet as Ken accelerated hard out of the apex and into a short straight. Then came the left-hander. Until then, I'd never quite had the experience of having a camera mashed into my face like that. I specifically bought an open-face helmet so I could get the viewfinder closer to my face when taking rides like this. I have since re-evaluated my need for a closed-face helmet. In the end, I decided just to watch and experience Ken's piloting for a while.
Watching him drive the GTR using the hand controls is like watching a cross between Speed Racer and your favorite martial arts film. His fluid motions while turning the wheel, twisting the throttle, and pivoting the wheel for braking is something you must see in person to fully believe. Mix this with the sensation of speed and the body-bending, gut-wrenching g-forces the car is capable of generating and you're in for a hell of a ride.
Andrew warned me beforehand the GTR that wasn't really designed for a track like the Streets. "The car really struts its stuff at courses with longer straights and corners," he said. He could have fooled me; I know for a fact that the speedometer read 95-mph-plus in some of the straights. And because of the size of the tires that number is probably on the low side. After a few more feeble attempts at photography, I had Ken pull into the pits so my overloaded synapses could decode the experience I was just put through.
A few closing thoughts. If you are considering GTR upgrades for your A4 or S4, beg for a ride in the 2Bennett Audimotive S4 GTR if it ever comes to a track near you. It's what the second seat is for. I'm really proud of the fact that they didn't have to hose the car out after my ride. And to the ec editors: You may as well use some of the in-car shots since I didn't have to add new boxers to my expense report.
2Bennett S4 GTR
Longitudinal front engine,all-wheel drive
2.7-liter V6, dual overhead cams, five valves per cylinder, twin turbocharged and intercooledRS4 intake with APR Bipipe, APR software, 2B exhaust and crankcase breather system, modified RS4 K04 turbos, dual aluminum intercoolers, 2B engine and transmission oil cooler kitsSuspension2B Coil Program adjustable coilovers, 2B adjustablecontrol arms
2B stage 2 GT brakesWheels and TiresForgeline SX3, 11x18Toyo RA1, 305/35-18
Custom 2B GTR widebody panelsInteriorEight-point roll cage, customsteering, throttle and brakecontrol mechanism
Peak Power: 500 bhp (est.)