2013 has seen plenty of trips for team Litchfield to the fabled Nordschleife in order to test yet more new products. It’s an integral part of our development programme and every bit as vital as the road or dyno testing that we do, or the stress analysis and CAD work. Because of its unique set of climatic and track variances, nothing wrings a car out quite the way a ‘Ring trip does. It’s safe to say – and to paraphrase Frank Sinatra – if we can make it work there, we can make it work anywhere!
Our trip earlier in the year to shake down the BRZ/GT86 package had been a fruitful one. The car was clearly a cut above the many stock cars that were lapping the place, and it was wonderful to see how reliable we had managed to make it with our latest revisions to the conversion parts we had developed.
These trips over to the Nurburgring provide invaluable R&D time as we get to drive the cars we’re so passionate about on the road trip there and back, along with an intense few days lapping the famous circuit. It is a track like no other and challenges both the driver and car to their limits – quickly showing up any short comings. The sustained seat time with each car also helps us highlight the areas we need to improve and develop further. As you can imagine, there’s never a shortage of volunteers from the team for this trip!
Whilst at the Nurburgring we have the exclusive use of the stunning, state-of-the-art workshop owned by our technical partner Capricorn. This modern-day temple of excellence was designed from a clean sheet of paper to be a self-contained facility where technicians, engineers and boffins can eat, sleep and work under the same roof that the cars are being developed in. It’s an incredible space and allows our team to really immerse themselves in what they’re doing and literally live with the cars 24 hours a day. It’s this attention to detail that is imperative during testing and final sign off. The Capricorn Centre always feels like a home-coming whenever we take GT-Rs for testing too, as this is the very building where the car was developed and tested before its global launch. Ford Racing used the centre to convert all of Europe’s Ford GT models prior to sale. There’s some real history and heritage in those workshop walls and it inspires us to keeping moving the boundaries onwards!
Another technical partner, Akrapovic, also joined us for the trip, bringing along their 911 Turbo demo car, as well as their GT-R, which has naturally already been through our full tuning process for a little extra performance. They also brought an impressive array of their latest titanium exhaust systems. On their display stands, they actually look like works of automotive sculpture, rather than car components, and we rather liked having them around the lounge area!
This year’s trip in June was to be our biggest effort yet, with more technical staff, cars and guests than we have ever taken before. More hands on deck meant we could take more projects, so this year’s roll-call included our BMW 335i, BMW E92 M3, Nissan GTR, Subaru BRZ and our new support trailer filled with tools and equipment. Several customers and friends also joined in the convoy too, which we always enjoy. Aside from the days of development work required, these trips are also a great opportunity to spend time with customers and better understand their requirements and experiences. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for our technicians to experience first-hand what their hard work produces with the people that matter the most!
Whenever possible, we always try and schedule our Ring Trip with the affable team at Destination Nurburgring. Big chief Darren Langveld runs a tight ship and a simply excellent event, meaning we all get a load of track time in a brilliant atmosphere with a great number of like-minded enthusiasts. Who doesn’t want that? As our little bit of love back, we throw open the Capricorn Centre for the driver’s briefing and sign on, and this time, we even hired a bar to welcome the weary but excited travellers, many of whom had travelled from all over Europe to attend!
This car could have been made for The Ring! With such perfect balance and sensible power levels, it’s a natural choice for the Eifel circuit. All of those road and track miles allowed us to run a myriad of engine calibration tests, while two days of race-pace meant that the upgraded Alcon Superkit front and rear brakes upgrades were able to prove their worth beyond question.
We also had a great opportunity to shake down the new Bilstein Ride Control suspension kit, with its ‘on the fly’ switchable damping rate. Just the thing for cars that need to lead real Jekyll and Hyde existences, offering smooth comfort on the way to the track, and stiffer, more controlled damping once you’re there.
We also had chance to try our new rear differential setup and give the exceptional Michelin Supersport tyres a real workout. The 335i proved the perfect car to introduce our track novices into the Nordschleife experience with its excellent stability control and handling.
BMW (E92) M3 LM450
We had also fitted the Alcon Superkit to this car too – and we were rather glad we did. Nothing covers ground like the M3, particularly when you are at pace on the derestricted autobahns.
Having fitted our new sports cars and X-pipe to the car, we were also keen to dial in a new set of engine calibration figures to ensure that we were getting the very best out of the motor.
As one of Bilstein’s technical partners in the UK, we also fitted a prototype set of EDC-compatible dampers to trial too, along with a set of prototype Eibach front and rear anti-roll bars – all of which we hope to release later in 2014.
It certainly gave the Michelin Supersport rubber plenty to contend with anyway! Predictably, the tyres handled all conditions, speed and surface just brilliantly. When the rain came the M3 was simply the most entertaining way to tackle any bend.
Nissan GTR LM750
Running in a very modest (for us) 750bhp trim, we wanted to test a whole heap of parts on the GT-R in the very location where it was honed – and hooned – in the first place. Stepping up a league, the Alcon CCX ceramic brake kit is a real competition quality upgrade, and proved to be more than a match for the Nissan’s considerable bulk around the fastest parts of the circuit.
Revisions to our own bespoke suspension and chassis set-up for the GT-R were also heavily refined during this mission, and our new front lip spoiler, with its brake cooling ducts, proved to do exactly what it says on the tin…. until the bumper mounts failed at 175mph and caused the lipspoiler to come away!! Having survived numerous high speed runs in the past it has become clear that the front lip spoiler supports weaken over time and the extra downforce our lipspoiler produces can cause this problem. We have now re-engineered the mounting supports behind the bumper to give the extra strength needed and stop this re-occurring again. This issue is one of the key reasons we choose to test our own products in places like the ring.
On a more positive note our new engine calibration work on enhancing the GTR’s traction control system showed real improvements and will allow us to focus on the areas that need further work.
Subaru BRZ LM280 Supercharger
Star of many magazine features – as well its own Japanese Performance column, our BRZ is one of the most sorted ‘Toyobarus’ in the UK. That doesn’t mean that we could resist the urge to test and fettle further, mind you.
On this trip, yet another Alcon Advantage Extreme brake kit was put through the wringer and we spent many happy hours using the adjustability of our own bespoke handling kit, with its multi-position anti-roll bar settings, to make the car absolutely superb on the Nordschleife’s multitude of corners.
Our supercharger kit has won many plaudits for its amazing linear power delivery but we wanted to give the whole system two solid days of full-throttle antics to make sure that it can achieve the reliability and longevity of service that we demand from all of our conversions. We have been refining this system over many months now and on this Ring Trip it proved that it functions and performs as per an OEM component – only with a whole lot more power! We also took the chance to compare our Michelin and Yokohama tyre options at the same time, so we can offer sage advice on what works where – and which pressures perform best with each suspension setting. Time very well spent!
All in all it was a fantastic trip and we are proud to say that everything we developed worked beautifully. This has allowed us to learn so more about the cars we enjoy so much, the products we produce and best of all confirmed that we’re heading in the right direction!