Feature Car: APR Motorsport's Race GTI

Dec 17, 2008 | Words: Cherise LaPine-Grueninger


We at VWvortex still reminisce about some of the cars we saw this summer, and tuner cars are no exception. APR Motorsport draws a crowd at every show they visit, and their display cars are a great visual backdrop for their portfolio of parts and accessories. The GTI featured here, APR Motorsport race car 191, first caught our attention because of its familiar design cues (evoking memories of a Volkswagen MKV GTI shirt that still hangs in some of our closets) and we were eager to find out what was underneath the elegant yet aggressive surface. VWvortex understands, though, that a car is more than the sum of its parts (no matter how top-notch those parts might be), so we decided to visit the APR race fleet at home.

Running a shop and hosting a race team apparently requires serious acreage, and APR's former headquarters building simply wasn't big enough. We got a sneak peek of the new facility and a tour of the site's features during two visits this summer; we were seriously impressed by the shop, designed for exclusive use of the race team and development of the team's three cars, and APR's test track, which is nearly a mile long. The hood from the APR Gumball S4, one solid piece of carbon fiber weave, hangs in the hallway leading to the workshop. The shop is the kind of place that budding gearheads' parents promise them the afterlife is like, if they give lots of money to the poor. Seven twin-post lifts rise out of the floor. Tire changers and balancers sit against the back wall, next to a four-wheel laser alignment rack. Toolboxes flank each service bay, their butcher-block tops littered with multimeters and laptop computers. A catwalk and mezzanine overlook one side of the room, the shelves stacked on them bursting with turbochargers and crankshafts and spare race car parts. Visible out the windows is APR's own fueling depot, installed so there would always be a supply of race gas on hand. When APR held an open house in October, over 500 people showed up, with more than 350 cars on display across the grounds. Certainly not a bad turnout, considering APR's location in rural Alabama.

APRís had considerable success developing a portfolio of products for the 2.0T platforms, to the benefit of VW and Audi owners across the continent. Itís on APRís own stable of race cars, though, that the effort really pays off; the fleet is perfect for development and testing of new products.

ďWe use the race cars to verify the durability of as many products as we are able to use, according to the rules of the racing league,Ē explains Keith Lucas, Director of Sales and Marketing for APR.

The MKV GTI was the obvious car for development, based on Volkswagen's motorsports heritage and the popularity of the car amongst APR's customers. In stock form, the GTI even looks the part. APR elected to install the complete Votex body kit, an OEM upgrade that, in most cases, provides a subtly aggressive improvement. Combined with APR's stripes and decals, though, the Votex kit is almost belligerent. A carbon sunroof insert pares down the car's curb weight by eliminating the heavy, cumbersome sunroof components. The paint and decals are the real giveaway of the carís origins, and we love that the car incorporates APR's signature design elements. APR's graphic designer, Conan Scanlan, called on APR's motorsports roots and his own Germanic heritage (he was born in Nuremberg) to compose the coat of arms.

"The inspiration actually came from a VW MKV GTI shirt that had a coat of arms on it. It was a brown shirt with orange print; it really showed the Germanic heritage to me," said Conan. "After the SEMA GTI we did in 2006 [which has the same APR coat of arms ghosted in the paint], I thought it'd be good to make the APR Motorsport race cars look as if they came from the same litter of rabbits."

Traditional components of a coat of arms, according to Conan, include vines, foliage and mythical animals. For the central element, Conan designed a griffin with stripes, a hybrid of the nearby University of Auburn's tiger and eagle mascots. He said the gear in the middle comes from the original VW KDF Wagen introduced in 1941; the two eagles at the top are from the early WWII-era German Military emblem with wings that represent turbine blades. To represent APR, he included turbochargers, intakes and exhausts.

"The difficult part was throwing all this together without it looking awkward or contrived. The funny part is that I really attempted to design the APR coat of arms with the look of an old wood cut or print," said Conan. "It seems, however, that most of our customers call it a tattoo, without knowing that I am [also] a tattoo artist."

Aesthetics stop there; under the hood is pure purpose. Engine modifications are surprisingly minimal: the GTIís 2.0T FSI is augmented by APRís high pressure fuel pump and 12psi tuning. Race series rules prevent additional tinkering.

ďThe racing leagueís rules limit our engine modifications to 12 psi of boost pressure and donít allow for many parts changes,Ē says Keith. ďEven the airbox has to stay stock but we get to calibrate the ECUs and add other parts to increase durability that donít deliver power.Ē

Keith is mum about the power output from the engine modifications, but the increase naturally necessitates some transmission upgrades. APRís prototype limited slip differential, combined with a Stage 3 clutch kit from Southbend Clutch, helps the drivers manage their power; a set of APRís prototype polyurethane motor mounts hold everything firmly in place.

The GTIís suspension setup makes easy work of a track's curves and turns. APR started out with products from suspension heavy-hitters and added their own prototype elements. Koni 28 Series race dampers mate with APR Motorsportís rear upper damper mounts. Ground Control 5-bolt front camber plates and APR prototype Delrin front control arm bushings keep the nose together; the rear is beefed up with polyurethane suspension bushings and a Hotchkis rear sway bar mated with APR Motorsport prototype sway bar end links. Suspension, incidentally, is one of the two areas in which the three race cars differ from each other; Keith said that since the cars are otherwise identical, it's possible to experience the subtleties of different suspension setups and braking compounds across the fleet.

The power is put to the track through a set of 17x8" die forged BBS RGRs, finished in Diamond Black and wrapped with Hoosier Grand-Am Spec tires. Stopping power comes courtesy of Performance Friction 315mm race rotors with APR Motorsport prototype front brake rotor hats and APR prototype front caliper extension system, complemented by stainless brake lines and Cobalt Friction race pads.

The interior is also purely purposeful, without a lot of glamour. The GTI's signature Interlagos interior has been chucked in favor of Status Racing seats and harnesses. The driver faces a MOMO steering wheel that's flanked by a carbon dash panel; lining the cockpit is an APR Motorsport rollcage. Cool tech features include chase cam video monitoring and Race Technology DL-1 and Dash 2 data acquisition, for post-race analysis.

Clearly, this car's been pretty well thought out, and APR's motorsports experience is a big part of the company's marketing. When these cars are on display at Waterfest or H20, they stir up something primal: once we know what APR is capable of accomplishing, it's natural to want some of that action. Fortunately, some of the prototype parts featured on APR's shop cars have been made available to APR customers.

"Weíve used the race to test the durability of our high pressure fuel pumps and we are about to release a front and rear sway bar from the racing development," says Keith. He notes, however, that it's not a particularly good idea to spec out your own car to the extent of the GTI you see here.

"Technically, they would meet most of the laws associated with street cars, like having tail lights and head lights, but the modifications are so extreme to the actual chassis that some of the impact safety features may have been removed and the car is very tight and stiff, so not a lot of fun on the street," explains Keith.

But if a customer wanted to turn the fantasy into reality? Keith says that to achieve APR's race fleet specs, a customer could expect to pay about $70,000 above and beyond the cost of the car itself. It's a safe guess that this tidy sum is out of reach for all but the most dedicated of race teams.

To have such resources at the ready — a gorgeous new shop, custom parts, and even a personal graphic designer and tattoo artist — is the stuff of daydreams at VWvortex. At APR Motorsport, it's business as usual.

For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums to the left.
For more photos of the car in this story, click on the link to our gallery at the right.

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