The old American muscle car adage, “the bullshit stops when you line ‘em up” is as relevant today as when it was coined back in the 1950s. What has changed is the fact that despite being laden with creature comforts, some of today’s showroom stock cars are born with the performance to annihilate the fastest stripped out hot rods of yesteryear.
The sheer performance capabilities of modern cars mean that they need to be tested at a closed facility. But as racetracks are only suitable for testing handling and potential lap times in a controlled environment, establishing acceleration to 3,000 metres and terminal speed at that point requires a very different kind of test track.
We used to use carry out this kind of testing at Nardo in Southern Italy every two years, in November when the weather in Northern Europe is tainted by the approach of winter. However, since Porsche acquired Nardo a few years ago this mission has become more difficult.
Enter ATP (Automotive Testing Papenburg GmbH), one of the world’s largest manufacturer-independent automobile testing facilities. Situated near the town of Papenburg in Northwest Germany, ATP covers 800 hectares and features specific areas where different aspects of vehicle dynamics can be tested and calibrated. The major highlight is the 12.3km long high-speed oval test track with banking where high performance cars can be given their head.
Being in Northern Germany Papenburg can only function for performance testing while the weather allows. So it was a sunny weekend in late August when I joined colleagues from Germany’s Auto Bild Sportscars magazine and control tyre sponsor Continental Tyres, to put nine of Germany’s fastest tuner cars through their paces.
Billed as the Papenburg 3000 High Performance Event, this speed contest measures the Vmax achieved by each car at the 3000-metre finish mark. These terminal speeds and the acceleration numbers achieved on the way there are recorded and verified by third party adjudicator, TÜV Rhineland, using the industry standard Racelogic VBox data logging equipment.
As is normal at such events all the participants also attached their own video recording and data logging equipment to their cars for their own records and post-event advertising purposes. Those taking home a class win are able to make good marketing capital of it, while the overall winner will likely be dining out on their record until the next such event.
As test facilities like ATP and Nardo are fully utilised during the week we could only use the track during their downtime over Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Thus all the teams arrived on Saturday and set up in one of the garage buildings where they carried out final checks on the cars and applied the event sponsors decals. After that we had time for our photo and video shoots of the participants who were 9ff, AC Schnitzer, Brabus, Edo Competition, Giacuzzo, Klasen, MTM, TechArt and Wolf.
Ambient temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, tyre pressures and road surface all have a bearing on a cars performance. Also as drag increases with the square of speed it takes a lot more power to get a car from 200 to 300km/h than from 100 to 200km/h so we would really be separating the men from the boys in this contest.
It was no surprise then that we saw small tweaks being made to clean up the profiles of the cars such as applying tape to the bonnet shuts to eke out every advantage no matter how small. In the case of the 9ff GT2 RS, the team taped over the NACA ducts on the carbon-fibre bonnet since these additional brake cooling air inlets performed no useful function in this outright speed contest.
The weather on Sunday continued to be bright and sunny with minimal wind, but because both naturally and forced aspirated engines do not perform optimally in high ambient temperatures all the speed runs were carried out in the relatively cool early morning air. That meant a 0600hrs departure from our nearby hotel.
By 0900hrs all the cars were assembled in the holding area near the long straight. With the timing gear and video cameras attached and primed, one by one they rocketed off the start line, down the long straight and through the final laser trap at the 3,000-metre mark.
As each car was only allotted one run the proceedings were over very quickly, and then it was time to download and analyse the data logged by the VBox measuring equipment.
The Giacuzzo Stinger GT did not record a 300km/h time because this V6 bi-turbo powered saloon simply did not have the power to reach the magic figure.
In the Coupe class, while Audi’s twin-turbo 3.0 litre V6 is more potent than the naturally-aspirated 4.2 litre V8 that powered the previous generation RS5, it feels distinctly lacking in top end grunt compared to its 4.0 litre turbocharged V8 rivals from Mercedes-AMG and BMW.
The other old adage, “there’s no substitute for cubic inches” translates to the tuned versions of these cars. So while quattro 4WD helped MTM’s 612hp RS5 R leave the line more smartly than the 715hp Wolf Mustang, the sheer grunt of the Ford’s supercharged 5.0 litre V8 saw the old school, rear-wheel-drive American muscle car beat the RS5 R to 300km/h by a yawning 6.8 seconds. In the end though, the Audi pipped the Mustang’s top whack by 4.9km/h thanks to its better aerodynamics and slightly taller gearing.