It’s official, the most powerful Golf GTI ever, the Clubsport S, has broken the lap record at the Nürburgring’s Nordshleife with a time of 7:49.21, more than a second faster than the previous record.
The car was developed to celebrate the GTI’s 40 th anniversary, and will therefore be limited to a production run of 400 car worldwide. The car will only come in the same colors as the original GTI: “Tornado Red,” “Pure White,” and “Deep Black Pearl.”
The Clubsport S is based on the two door Golf, and is being called a “pure two-seater.” Shedding the rear seats has amounted in the biggest weight savings, but it doesn’t stop there. The car only comes in manual to save weight, and the central armrest, insulation, variable-height trunk floor, rear parcel shelf, and floor mats have all been left at the factory.
The car is built on an aluminum subframe for the front suspension and brake covers made of the same also help in the weight loss regimen. Thanks to bigger wheels and tires—19-inch “Pretoria” aluminum alloys with Michelin Sport Cup 2s attached—a strut brace, and a carpet in the rear, though, some of the weight is added back. In all the weight savings amount to 66 pounds, as compared to the Cubsport not-S.
The unladen weight is a trim 2,833 lbs, and laden weight of 2,998. The power to weight ration is therefore 9.14 lbs per hp.
The engine makes its 305 hp thanks to a modified ECU, new exhaust system (that allows for deliberate backfires!), and a new fuel pump that gets more gas to what was the sane 1,984 cc engine out of the regular GTI.
The brake system has also been improved to keep up with the added power. The disc bells are made of aluminum—which reduces the unsprung mass of each wheel by 2.2 lbs—and are connected to the steel discs by cast location pins that allows them to expand under the heat of heavy braking.
And don’t think that this is an understeering maniac. The aerodynamic mods that the team added to the car make it track day darling. Thanks to the front and rear spoilers more downforce is generated over the back axles than the front, meaning that the Clubsport GTI has practically no understeer, says VW.
“It was obvious to all of us that [the regular] GTI had immense potential,” recalls Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Chassis Tuning, “so we decided to get the most performance possible out of this car. A small team went through the entire process, from bottom to top, pretty much like it was back when the first Golf GTI came into being.”
“To neutralize the understeer and at the same time boost grip levels, we counteracted understeer on the front axle and specially designed the hub carriers,” resulting in higher camber angles, he adds.
The result is that even at full acceleration, the car has great traction. ESC will also bail you out if you give it too much of a kick, but that can be completely turned off with a two-stage switch on the center console if you’re a more experienced driver.
VW, though, had the Nürburgring in its sights from the beginning, and the car features an exclusive setting just for the track that can be selected from the driving profile selector, which configures the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC).
“In the ‘Individual’ driving profile, the engineers have developed a setting that is fine-tuned to suit the unique conditions of the Nürburgring,” write Volkswagen in a press release. The setting switches the sound, engine, and steering parameters to a unique setting that can’t be accessed otherwise.
You can also read a full account of the record setting lap below from Volkswagen.
Chronology of a record-setting drive
Wolfsburg / Nürburgring, May 2016 – A cool spring morning. The Nürburgring Nordschleife. Temperatures slowly rise. Warmed up, the car waits, crackling in the pit lane. The new Golf GTI Clubsport S. The mission: to write history.
Race car driver Benny Leuchter (28) Leuchter puts on his helmet and gives Karsten Schebsdat a hand signal: “I’m ready.” Schebsdat is the Head of Volkswagen Chassis Tuning and is part of the team that developed the 165-mph Golf GTI Clubsport S. Passionate Volkswagen people from Development, Marketing, Communications and Sales worked on this car. GTI fans. They spent many months refining the “normal” GTI Clubsport and the Golf GTI TCR racer into a sporty jewel. Now they want to know what their baby can do.
Schebsdat taps Leuchter’s helmet. He starts the car, selects the “Individual” driving profile mode and thereby activates the setting for the Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop), which manages special settings for the engine, steering and adaptive chassis control system (DCC). The Nordschleife has a unique combination of bends and road bumps. “To break the record here, the GTI must be fast in the bends while simultaneously handling the bumps and leaps”, explains Leuchter as he closes the driver’s door. The Clubsport S specializes in this. The time will be measured by breaking a light beam. Leuchter drives out of the pit lane. One lap. 20.832 kilometers. A flying start. The clock is running.
The Clubsport S thunders into the Hatzenbach. Into 4th gear. “The car has to absorb the curbs cleanly”, Leuchter says via radio. “We have put a high priority on the GTI being stable on the curbs too”, says Schebsdat in the pit lane with a glance at the clock. The Clubsport S flies through the Hocheichen section. 4th gear, at speeds up to just over 115 mph. Full speed ahead, a longer stretch of straightaway down to Quiddelbach Höhe, then the Flugplatz. Two right-hand bends, very fast, 5th gear; good for 134 mph.
“Making sure that I am back on the gas early, because I am now heading towards Schwedenkreuz”, says Leuchter. “Upshift to 6th gear.” At nearly 150 mph, the Clubsport S flies over the crest at Schwedenkreuz. “The car is super at absorbing everything; it rebounds and immediately recovers.” Back to 5th gear. Backfire from the exhaust system. Now left into Schwedenkreuz. Applying the brakes, 3rd gear. Aremberg and then into the Fuchsröhre. Leuchter: “It all works at full throttle. Going very fast. But the car must be perfectly aligned when it enters the Fuchsröhre.” The GTI reaches the Adenauer Forest. Towards Metzgesfeld now. Fast left bend. He stays on record time, because the GTI has tremendous downforce. Through the Kallenhard section, “it is possible to brake hard at the last instant, but it still remains fully steerable”, Leuchter would later report. He continues: “I can trust the car. Even on the bumps. That is important to be really fast on the Nordschleife.”
Wehrseifen now, nearly halfway around at 9 kilometers. At Ex-Mühle, a fast uphill right: “Normally, a front-wheel-drive car understeers here. The GTI Clubsport S only exhibits it slightly at the entrance to the bend. Ex-Mühle is also bumpy. The Golf handles it superbly.” Out of this bend and towards Kesselchen. Kilometer 12. The GTI flattens out the bumps and curbs, and doesn’t jump a single millimeter. Kilometer 13. The Karussell. Leuchter: “Concrete, very bumpy, the GTI doesn’t jump here either.” Hohe Acht. Now the Eifel hills become more alpine, and the Nordschleife gets even more challenging.
Leuchter’s favorite passage: “Every meter from Hohe Acht down to Brünnchen is demanding on car and driver. Wippermann, for example: Enter very fast. Just touch the curbs on the left slightly, then full over to the right. Even here this GTI remains true to its line. That is the key to a really fast lap.” Final sprint. Pflanzgarten, the second jump over the crest. The GTI lifts briefly, comes back down and can be driven very quickly through the double right that follows. Leuchter: “Even when it rebounds to the limits, the GTI follows steering inputs.”
Kilometer 17, the Stefan-Bellof S bend. Bellof set the record on the Nordschleife in Porsche 956.007 with 650 PS. Leuchter is following Bellof’s wheeltracks with 340 PS less, but in the same spirit. Schwalbenschwanz, Galgenkopf: “The Galgenkopf is also crucial for a fast lap. If I can drive out of it at high speed, I can reach the Döttinger Höhe at a speed of more than 155 mph” Seconds later, the Golf GTI Clubsport S shoots through the light beam at the finish. A time of 7 minutes, 49.21 seconds. The fastest front-wheel-drive time around the Nordschleife. Ever.