Seven Tips for Going Faster from a Pikes Peak Veteran

Last week we featured Sead Causevic’s story about building a Mk5 Jetta GLI and racing it at Pikes Peak. Although the car didn’t make it all the way up the hill (the clutch casing on his DSG gearbox failed) it was still an epic build. And epic builds require a lot of thought, time, trial, and error.

Trial and error sucks, though (especially the second bit), so we thought we’d ask Sead about all he’d learned during the build to help save us all from the pain of error. He gave us this list of seven tips and mods for regular humans.

“Get some driving instruction at an autocross or a track day”

There’s nothing like a fine tool for a job. Better tools help enormously with better results, but they aren’t the cause of them. That’s down to the craftsman. It’s tempting to make a car grip better, brake harder, and make more power, but the reality is that it’s all for naught if the person behind the wheel isn’t up to the task. As the old saying goes, slow cars make fast drivers. So get yourself educated. It’s the beginning and end of better performance.

“Front end bushings and an anti lift kit.”

Although instruction may be the beginning and end of going faster, there’s still stuff in the middle and that includes honing your tools. Anti lift kits are a little bit of mechanical witchcraft that help with traction. The kits channel braking and acceleration forces through the chassis instead of the springs, allowing the latter to focus more fully on cornering duty. They also change your car’s natural suspension geometry for the better. The pertinent bit of information here, though, is that you get better turn in and less understeer.

“Improve the dampers. (Ok, springs too, but the shocks are way more important.)”

Making a car handle well is really about controlling the forces that act upon it and dampers are one of the most important weapons in a car’s arsenal. Whereas springs are necessary to control the forces being generated by the road surface, dampers then react to the springs and control the resulting forces being caused by the momentum in the car. It’s important that springs and dampers stay in balance for optimal performance. Good damping leads to better road holding, handling, and, especially on imperfect roads, helps maintain traction.

“Install some improved brake pads.”

This is a wildly simple mod that can lead to better performance. You can easily change your brake pads in your driveway with simple tools. And for that little bit of effort, you get better pad material, which helps improve braking performance without the added weight of bigger discs or calipers. And with better braking performance comes shorter stops times, which means that you can be on the power longer, and drive with more confidence.

“Install a Limited Slip Differential in the transmission.”

We swear we asked for mods for regular humans, but apparently Sead was so enamored of his limited slip diff that he had to mention it here. Although this is a slightly bigger job than “installing better brake pads,” it will also bear more fruit. As anyone who’s watched Chevy’s excellent 1930s explainer video on the subject knows, a diff helps transmit power to the wheel that needs it most. The effect of which is that you can accelerate harder and earlier coming out of the corners and go faster. Do forgive us if we try the other suggestions on the list first, though.

“Buy a tune for the motor.”

We hardly need to extoll the virtues of a tune on this site, but for the uninitiated: Volkswagen (and every other manufacturer, too) designs its cars to run smoothly, quietly, reliably, and efficiently because, honestly, that’s what most people want. Some of us have different priorities, though, and will make concessions on the above topics if it leads to more speed. By messing with the car’s brain you get more power. Check out our aftermarket news section to find out more.

“Get some driving instruction at an autocross or a track day”

While all of the above mods will help lap times shrink, they would all be for naught if the driver behind the wheel can’t put them to good use. Better driving is the beginning and end of better performance.