In most sports, you'll find three stratified levels of participants. There's the average guy that goes out and messes around at family picnics. He knows just enough about a game to teach his kids and if it weren't for a size advantage and ever evolving rule set, he'd probably lose miserably to the kids every time. Next is the weekend warrior, the guy who plays in an adult league on Saturday and limps into work Monday with stories about how he put the smackdown on some legally blind, 120-pound accountant. Then there's the professional, the guy that makes a living playing his sport. He devotes his life to it; it consumes his being and focus.
II Performance Strata
It doesn't matter what sport we're talking about, whether it's darts, football or auto racing. These strata also exist in the tuning hobby. You have the basic bolt-on guy who wants things a little quicker and sharper, but really isn't willing to sacrifice his warranty or his entire income in the name of performance. The next step is the guy with more money, patience and consequently speed. Maybe some cutting or welding is necessary; he'll even install components that aren't easily reversed. The warranty is a moot point, but he'll only buy good, proven stuff. Some sacrifices can be made for performance, but there are still limits. The top-level enthusiast is willing to go all out-one-off parts, custom fabrication, doing things no one else has done before. If it blows up, he'll rebuild it stronger than the last time.
These three GTIs represent all three levels. The black car, owned by Jordan Martin, has your basic bolt-on parts along with some rare O.E. European cosmetic parts, but nothing too dangerous. The white four-door is owned by ec's own Anthony Gelinas. An off-the-shelf big turbo kit, cockpit-adjustable coilovers and an aerodynamics package take his GTI to the next level. Last, we have the monster GTI originally built by VF Engineering and taken to Frankenstein levels by Jarod Legsdin and the team at GIAC. With a custom big turbo, near-race suspension, a lightened interior and bolt-on fender flares, it's not understated, but may well be the all-around fastest front-wheel-drive car we've seen.
On the road, the varying levels of performance become clear.
Martin's black GTI uses revised software, and a less restrictive intake and exhaust that add a few more horses and allow the turbo to spin constantly. Sport springs give flatter, more predictable cornering, and Koni FSD multi-rate dampers allow for quick movements to absorb bumps while tightening up to slow body movement from acceleration forces. These are a great compromise for enthusiasts looking for stock levels of comfort and upgraded performance. The uprated suspension really helps the car use the entire width of the ultra-low-profile Falken tires. Instead of picking the inside edges up off the road, it keeps the contact patches flat.