A couple of weeks ago we brought our new Project GTi
to Blackchurch Motors
and put the car on their Dyno to check how much power and torque the engine was producing. (you can read the full article here
) It made a very respectable 194bhp and 207 ft/lbs of torque - just 3 bhp shy of the factory figures. While the car is still completely standard we wanted to further check the baseline performance before we make any changes so we brought it down to Mondello Park Race track
and handed in over to chief instructor and ex Formula Vee Champion Ken Elliott to set a lap time. To make things a bit more interesting we launched a competition for our Facebook fans
to predict the lap time Ken would do in the Golf. The prize was a full Track Day, kindly donated by Mondello!
We waited untill we got a dry day and for the track to be set up in the full, 2.2 mile International layout. The preparation made to the car was kept to a bare minimum as the whole point of the exercise was to measure the performance in standard trim. Tyres were pumped up to about 35psi (we probably should have gone to about 38psi really as that's what Mondello's fleet of mazda 3 training cars run on track) oil and water levels checked and camera equipment installed. The fuel tank was also filled and there were two of us on-board for the lap, so we were carrying quite a bit of weight. Ken did a slow lap to make sure the track was all clear and to disperse the Rabbits - there are 1000's of them when the place is quiet!
We set off on our flying lap. The 2 litre turbo pulled strongly down the main straight with good top end power, which was a pleasant surprise as I expected the characteristics of the engine to be less than ideal for track use, on the road it felt like it had more low-down torque than outright top end power. It was was on the rev limiter in 3rd gear under the bridge into turn 1. Heading into turn 2 on trailing throttle you could really feel the car start to understeer badly and Ken had to completely back out of the throttle to stop the front end pushing wide, the Landsail tyres already showing themselves up.
Down the next straight, again the car pulled well and we got some decent speed up. Into turn 3 the standard suspension soaked up the bumps very well without feeling overly soft. Getting the power down in 2nd gear was proving a bit of a problem, with the traction control off, the open diff was asking too much of the cheap tyres and we were lighting up the front inside wheel all too easily.
Through the long turn 4 and fast sweeping Parabolica we lost a huge chunk of time to understeer as ken just couldn't get on the throttle. Now we were on the fastest part of the track which is followed by the biggest braking zone, heading down the hill into Tarzan. It was at this point the Ken announced the brakes had gone! The pedal had gone soft, a sure sign the Brake Fluid
had overheated. With a 3rd of the lap still to do, Ken now couldn't lean on the brakes with any confidence at all! With 3 more heavy braking zones to get through this was really going to hamper our lap time.
Through the Esses the car changed direction well, feeling very nimble, even from the passenger seat. Into the long Hairpin we were again blighted with yet more understeer. On the way out of the hairpin the oil pressure warning light flashed on but went out again almost immediately, with just 1 corner to go we made the split decision to carry on. Ken had to take a cautious approach to Dunlop bend to avoid ending up in the gravel thanks to our now non-existent brakes, this in turn hampered our exit speed onto the main straight and up to the finish line. Overall it was a fairly eventful lap but certainly not a fast one! Here's the video we filmed:
With the lap time recorded at a rather sedate 2 minutes 19.5 seconds we let the car cool down a bit, changed camera angles and surmised that the oil light was probably due to oil starvation through the long left hand hairpin which would have forced oil to the right hand side of the sump, away from the pickup pipe which is on the left. We decided to head for the workshop and top up the oil level. here's a quick clip of the brakes still smoking when we pulled up at the workshop:
With the oil topped up, the brakes cooled and the oil pressure light staying off we headed back out on track to gather some more footage. Unfortunately After just 3 corners the oil pressure light came back on, this time immediately followed by the big red STOP Engine
light! Thankfully, Ken as an experienced racer immediately killed the motor and we had just enough momentum to coast back to the workshop. We both feared the worst! Losing oil pressure is never a good thing and there was an extremely strong chance we'd done terminal damage to the engine......and that wasn't a conversation I was looking forward to having with the boss!!....Still, it would have given us a lot of videos to shoot!
We'd done a fair bit of research into the GTi before & since we bought it and had read about issues with the oil strainer getting blocked. The more I thought about it the more the symptoms our car was displaying sounded like this could be the culprit. The oil light would only come on above 2,000 rpm, it would tick over just fine and there was no tell-tale knocking......there was a glimmer of hope!!
Click here to find out what happened next..