The next item to address after the track evaluation of my R28 was braking efficiency and feel. One of my original R28 project performance requirements was to have braking equal or better than the stock R32. The solution was a simple one: Porsche Brakes!!! So I purchased and installed an ECS Tuning Porsche front big brake kit (Stage 2 v2 for a Golf MkIV): Boxster 4-piston calipers with adapters, 332mm directionally vented, drilled, and slotted two piece light-weight rotors, Hawk HP+ performance pads and stainless steel braided flex lines. Not only is this kit absolutely beautiful to look at, but the pedal feel is rock hard, unsprung weight is greatly reduced, the braking efectiveness is nothing short of excellent, and they are the largest, most cost effective brakes one can fit under 17in rims without spacers. The rear brakes were left alone apart from the addition of Hawk HP+ pads, as they are R32 spec. This combination proved to work perfectly at the track, I now had some very serious "R" quality braking power.
California Road Trip and Dyno:
By the time all of these new modifications to the exhaust, suspension and brakes were finally in place and re-tested, it was the first week in April of 2005. Fortunately, and intentionally, this was just in time for the "Car-Guy Road Trip" I had planned with my old high school buddy, Jack O'Brien, to celebrate our 40th birthdays. The plan had Jack to fly out from Toronto to my place in Calgary, so he could join me for the ~5700 km round-trip drive to Southern California. The first event in our 7 day plan (after 2 days of driving!) was HPA's R32 Track Day at the Streets of Willow in Rosamond, CA. Jack was signed up for the "first timers" group in the R28 for his first ever track experience, while I had a great day instructing and meeting many of the SoCal R32 enthusiasts. The following day was a visit to Neuspeed in Camarillo, CA, to meet Joseph Chuan and for the installation of the new "trick" Haldex HPP control module. The same day we were quite lucky to arrange a photo shoot for the R28 with the very hardworking Rob Hallstrom of European Car Magazine in Placentia. For our third and last day in California we visited Advanced Motorsport Solutions in Carson, to meet Marc Kalaydjian and Paul Dam for 3 runs on the infamous MAHA 3000 LPS dyno - a four wheel dyno well known to be "notoriously honest". To be honest myself, I was truly expecting over 230 BHP. Unfortunately, the corrected peak engine BHP was calculated to be a very sad 200 (199.9), while the bone stock R32 for European Car's R32 shot-out spun 238 (238.2) corrected BHP four days before (similar temperature and humidity). This was extremely disappointing and surprising especially considering the R28's excellent track performance with the R32's at the Streets of Willow. We had no trouble keeping up with and passing stock R32's. So what gives? My engine (a 2.8L VR6 24V) is supposed to make 200BHP stock without the cams! Well, first off my car is about 200 lbs lighter than a stock R32, but more interesting is the shape of the torque curve that was achieved during the R28's dyno run in comparison to the stock R32. Torque averaged only ~25 ft/lbs off the stock R32 numbers between 2500 and 4500 rpm. This can be attributed to the choice of the 264/260 Schrick cams which are designed for low-end and mid-range grunt. This clearly demonstrates that torque, and not peak BHP, is the true performance measure for track performance. Interpretation of the additional diagnostic readouts from the MAHA dyno by Marc Kalaydjian also shed some light on what could easily be improved upon in the future. Marc pointed out that the ignition timing seemed to retard strangely and drastically between 5200 and redline. He also noted that the factory air box, in his experience, is quite restrictive and should be replaced or modified for more cold air intake.
Once home safely in Calgary after an enjoyable California road-trip (that included a fun overnight stop in Las Vegas on the way back - Hic!) I had the opportunity to track test the Haldex HPP control unit. This was the perfect finishing touch to my handling modifications. With the new found torque directed to the rear wheels two things can now be achieved with a great degree of reliability:
1) The car can be easily and predictably rotated to aid cornering. This can be initiated by, a) abruptly turning and adding some throttle (and then gently easing off to control it) , or b) by a mid corner momentary throttle lift (and getting back on it and controlling as above).
2) One can also get on the throttle much sooner through a given corner, sometimes well (and I do mean well!) before the apex. This is done with no additional drama whatsoever as the rear wheels, once loaded, take firm set and help thrust you quickly out of the corner. Up front there is reduced understeer (i.e. confident front wheel grip), thus enabling faster speeds past the apex and out of the corner.
I am personally really pleased with the addition the HPP unit, however, the results are subtle changes to the cornering dynamics which will likely only be explored and felt by confident experienced drivers.
In conclusion, my R28 Project really does demonstrate how excellent the VW R32 package was from both a high performance, and package deal perspective. I can also tell you it is a very tough one to emulate. Believe me I tried! I did get more than my fare share of the fun, the sound, the grip, the handling and the brakes, unfortunately however, I didn't get all of the raw power (not yet anyway - I still have some tricks up my sleeve!). But regardless, it's just too bad I couldn't buy one in Canada, it would have been a hell of a lot easier!
Stayed Tuned for the final segment, "Part 4: No More R32 Blues", when the R28 gets a serious 400HP Turbo upgrade at HPA Motorsports.