Times like these probably make Mike McGovern hate his job. For all he knew, it could've been my first time on a track. Or my first time at the helm of a 630-hp twin-turbocharged V8, which it was. As chief instructor at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, he's probably seen his fair share of overinflated egos who, for some reason or another, thought they could drive. He's had the misfortune of riding shotgun with the ham-fisted, the apex-ignorant, the overzealous, and he probably didn't get paid enough to do so.
We were hurtling down the front straight of the Bondurant track, into Fourth gear for a few seconds, nearly touching 100 mph, before the braking markers appeared. McGovern's feet went instinctively to the carpet, pounding up and down, hard on the brakes, the imaginary pedals on the front passenger side that all driving instructors pump when approaching a tight right-hand chicane at 100 mph. "Brake, brake, brake," he said as the braking markers "4" and "3" flashed by. I held off until we hit the number "2" marker, then laid into the brakes and turned in while trailing off.
I left the braking late not to make the instructor's life flash before his eyes but to test the limits of an Audi R8 that had recently been fortified by an Evolution Motorsports twin-turbocharger system. While probing its limits and looking for flaws or limitations, I failed to find any weaknesses. Those limits are lofty yet approachable thanks to a chassis that stayed composed, communicative, forgiving, and obedient. The many accolades the R8 has garnered since its release are definitely well deserved.
Perhaps the only knock against the R8, at least in eight-cylinder form, is that it lacks the kind of power to put it in the same conversation as comparable offerings from Porsche and Ferrari. Audi addressed that by dropping in a slightly detuned version of the V10 from the Lamborghini Gallardo, but where does that leave the owners with the V8?
Todd Zuccone of Evolution Motorsports, (EVOMS) in Tempe, Ariz., saw both the deficiencies and the potential in the V8 R8 and figured he'd fill that void. EVOMS is best known for taking Porsche Turbos to the edge and living to tell about it. The company's 996 TT put them on the map when it hit 231 mph in the standing mile, and while I was in the shop, there were several 1,100-hp Turbos in for service or waiting to be picked up by their owners. Suffice it to say Zuccone and his crew have forced induction down cold.
For the R8, they started by taking apart the engine to look for weak links or areas of concern. Satisfied, they decided that the stock engine would be able to handle a fair amount of boost, around 8 psi, without breaking.
Zuccone went with large turbos instead of smaller, quicker-spooling units because the less restrictive, larger turbos wouldn't generate as much heat. For this setup, he chose Garrett GT35 dual ball bearing turbos with upgraded Tial billet compressor wheels. The wastegates and blow-off valves are also by Tial. All the extra piping, plumbing, and exhaust works were designed and fabricated in-house, with an emphasis on OEM-level fit and compatibility with actual OEM pieces. The ECU is the factory Bosch unit, reprogrammed by EVOMS.
Heat became the main issue during development and to combat it, just about everything received a coating of Jet-Hot 2000. All of the original heat shields are used and a few new ones were fabricated. EVOMS also created new air ducting to feed the intercooler's heat exchanger, which sits behind the air duct "blade" in front of the rear wheel.
As for the intercooler itself, it's a liquid cooled unit utilizing four Laminova cores. EVOMS designed it to fit between the intake runners and the intake manifold. According to their tests, this configuration provided lower intake air temperatures and pressure drop than an intercooler placed between the turbos and the intake runners.