Nothing Leaves Stock’s One Lap Of America-Winning MK5 GTI

I’m riding shotgun as Nothing Leaves Stock’s Josh Paashaus points to a line of trees along the road, just after the corner we’re about to tackle aboard one of their fifth generation GTI race cars. “See how there is one tree missing up there along the road?” he asks. “That’s where I broke my back.” When we get through to the other side in one piece, I ask how fast he was going when his “incident” happened. The answer was about 15mph slower than our entry speed. Luckily for me, this time there was absolutely zero drama.


Starting back in early 2013, Josh and Nothing Leaves Stock were contracted to create three purpose-built 2009 GTIs to compete in One Lap of America and that could afterward also be used for Track Days.  The owner’s initial vision was to make something completely stripped of unnecessary weight, weighing in at 500 hp and put to the ground via a sequential gearbox… all while remaining street legal as required by the One Lap rules.  As seemingly almost always happens, the parts list changed multiple times throughout the project, but the trio of cars is still extremely close to the owner’s original vision, which is quite impressive.  The result is what could be considered to be the ultimate expression of the fifth generation GTI, all while remaining (barely) street legal.


When you approach the three GTIs for the first time, your eyes are immediately drawn to the aerodynamic enhancements, all of which are completely functional.  With the roof spoiler set to 8-degrees and the GTI traveling at 110mph, each car generates 318lbs of downforce over the rear wheels, while the front splitter works to generate 308lbs at the same speed.  Combine that with Anze 3-way adjustable coilovers, suspension bushings made from aluminum and forged Rotiform wheels wrapped in 275-width Michelin rubber tucked under carbon fiber flares, and you have a car that can achieve about 1.3g of cornering force.


Functionality is the theme on the inside as well.  There are two fixed race seats, a dashboard, roll cage, some gauges and pedals, but that’s about it.  Everything that does not need to be there has been tossed aside.  That means that at times it can be a bit deafening (in part due to straight cut gears), causing the drivers to utilize aviation headphones to communicate during the long distance commutes of the One Lap of America.


Those aviation headphones also work to mute the annoying tick coming from the oil tank mounted directly behind the passenger seat.  Unfortunately they do nothing to quell the lightheadedness you get from the fumes, though that’s all part of the charm.  For this reason, Josh tells me that it’s a “windows down kind of car.”  No matter. It’s all worth it, as all of these compromises in comfort add up, allowing each car to be quicker than their competition.


In order to make the most of their suspension setup and massive weight savings, the motors have been substantially beefed up as well.  Each engine was fully built by INA Engineering, set up for dry sump lubrication and mated to GTX 3071R turbochargers that produce the desired power figures, while still being “small” enough to retain a more linear powerband.  To help put power to the ground, the Maktrak sequential transmission fitted to each car is fully locked, meaning that power is evenly distributed between the two front wheels.  Sequential shifting also works to make gear changes extremely quick, with the clutch only needed for downshifts and to get started from a full stop.


After a quick chat about the cars and what it took to get to their current state, Josh and I head out in the One Lap of America class winner for a loop that he is quite familiar with.  It’s a 15 or so mile circuit that he used to take home from school, even though he lived only a few blocks away.  Once out of town, we turn down a windy bit of road and traffic disappears.  It’s in that exact moment when all of the modifications begin to make sense.


Power comes on quick; with each upshift from the sequential gearbox being best described as sudden and violent, keeping the car well into the power band.  The Anze suspension and wide Michelins work so incredibly well that you begin to question everything you’ve thought possible on back roads, and rather than try to caution the pilot of corners and elevation changes, you simply find yourself grinning widely.  Although the car’s suspension was set to a more conservative “wet” setting during our drive, turn in was extremely quick and road holding is astonishing. On a proper racetrack with its “dry” suspension settings dialed in, this car must be a complete animal.


It’s nearly impossible to single out the most impressive part of the vehicle, aside from the fact that it is still street legal.  This legality is a key component of the One Lap of America, which takes participants to 11 different track events over the course of seven days.  Each team must travel the 3,249 miles in their car on one set of tires, and no support crews are allowed, making it a test of vehicle preparedness on the highest level.  The usual suspects at events like these are Vipers, Corvettes, M3s and the now ubiquitous Nissan GTR, so when Josh and crew showed up with 3 GTIs built to this level, more than a few heads turned.  “They think we’re nuts” Josh said, “but it’s a huge family so at the same time- they get it.


Those seven days were not exactly easy on the three GTIs, as two had motor issues forcing early retirements.  However even with those early retirements, the Nothing Leaves Stock-built GTIs worked so well that they were able to sweep the podium in their class.  As an even further testament to the effort and time put into the construction and development of these cars, the class-winning car finished 17th overall beating Corvette Z06s, M3s and other higher classed marques.


Now that all three GTIs have made it back safely to Nothing Leaves Stock, Josh and crew have plans to apply some of the lessons learned from this year’s event to make next year’s running even more successful.  While I’d love to go into a few of those plans, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.  You see, Josh isn’t the type of person to do much talking.  He’d much rather simply leave you behind, hoping for a chance to catch up at a stop light so that you may get some insight as to what just happened.  What I can say though, is that when these plans do come to fruition, you’ll be impressed.

Check out the full gallery below, and swing by the build thread in our MK5 Jetta/Golf forum.