9 Seconds in Poland… (Part 2 of 2)

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November 8, 2006

By: Chris Ostberg

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in our coverage from Poland of the World’s Fastest Audi S4. Please click here to read the first installment if you have not done so already.

Drag racing in Poland is a relatively recent phenomenon. With only one racetrack in useable condition in Poland, interest in road racing is relatively low. In the past those interested in cars and tuning typically gravitated towards illegal organized street races held in large cities such as Warsaw. Given the road and traffic conditions in Poland, this proved to be a relatively dangerous proposition. It could also turn out to be an expensive proposition as the result of frequent police intervention.

In 2003 one such group of street racers banded together to promote a safer (and legal) form of racing. This group – led by Arek as the President and Michal as VP – called themselves
Stowarzyszenie Sprintu Samochodowego
(“Auto Sprint Association” loosely translated) or SSS for short.

The SSS holds about six professionally sanctioned events each year on rented airstrips throughout Poland. These events attract more than 15,000 spectators and hundreds of competitors. For the equivalent of just a few dollars anyone with a street legal car can participate. Classes are broken down by engine size, drivetrain layout, and fuel type. At any given event spectators can expect to see something as brilliant as a massive turbo AWD equipped C3 Corvette running deep in the 9’s to a Polish built Polonez taking more than 30 seconds to run the quarter mile.

Although the SSS organization is a great start for drag racing in Poland, the club is still in its early years and has a long ways to go before reaching its ultimate goals. For starters, the airstrips which are used for the races are in very rough shape by race track standards. The pavement is choppy and broken, making traction a coveted commodity. No VHT traction compound is used. As a result powerful 2wd cars, even when equipped with large racing slicks, cannot find traction at these venues. No 2wd car has ever run faster than 10 seconds in the SSS series. This is precisely why an AWD car like an S4 is crucial to success. The club has plans to build a dedicated racetrack which would be FIA approved to host many types of professional events. However, at a starting cost of over $1M US to do this correctly, the idea remains more of an aspiration than a reality right now.

The week prior to the Polish 1/4 mile championships we received word from Arek that his new motor setup had run very well on the MAHA dyno (approximately 1,000 hp all turbo with no nitrous assist), but was found to have a broken valve afterwards. As this was just a short time before the race weekend, the Kreator Mocy team elected to use their “old” motor setup with the new turbos. This lower reving engine (8,000 vs 10,000 RPM) had done them well for the first 5 races of the Polish season.

The new engine setup employs cylinder heads which have been converted to solid mechanical lifters. This means that not only are the new parts lighter, but the outgoing self adjusting Audi hydraulic lifter parts become unstable above 8,500 RPM, not a desireable behavior, so the benefit is twofold. The solid mechanical lifters ultimately will offer a higher rev range, but require a more finite adjustment to take up any wear tolerances throughout the valvetrain. This means the new system will have little room – exactly what the broken valve had demonstrated to the team. These types of problems are to be expected for a team pushing an engine platform to performance levels never seen before, and Arek took the minor setback in stride.

Soon we find ourselves in Warsaw for the second time. Michal picks us up from the hotel at a very early 6:00 AM and we make our way to the airstrip on the outside of town. The first thing we notice upon entering the event grounds was the seemingly ridiculous amount of security present. Busload-upon-busload of SWAT team riot gear-equipped security officers were patrolling the event to ensure that everything would remain calm and under control.

“This is Poland,” says Michal with a shrug.

We had shown up early since Michal, being the club’s Vice President, had a considerable number of responsibilities to attend to through out the day. This gave us the opportunity to wander though the pits and crowd area at our own pace.

Slowly but surely, spectators and competitors begin to show up and fill the areas assigned to parking and pit areas. The wide spectrum of vehicles at the event was quite intriguing. As would be expected, the vast majority of cars were of European origin. American cars were fairly rare, while Audis were strongly represented. Two other B5 S4’s were present in addition to Arek’s monster S4. A few highly modified Audi S2’s were around, as well as an Audi 200 with a VW Touareg V10 biturbo diesel engine swapped in. Michal ran his own tuned A3 1.9 TDI turbo diesel to take in a few low 15 second timeslips. An interesting non-VAG car in attendance was a slick turbo/nitrous C3 Corvette which had taken on the AWD system from a GMC Typhoon/Syclone.

Although the pavement conditions leave much to be desired, the timing system for the series is top notch. A professional team is hired with a computerized TAG Heuer optical measurement system to manage timing from start to finish. Even though the intermediate splits and trap speeds are not measured, the start to finish times are undoubtedly accurate. Eventually, Michal would like to expand the timing system to measure 60 foot, 1/8th mile and trap speed measurements as are typically done in the US. Looking at past results, it becomes very clear that AWD is absolutely mandatory to run respectable times at this venue. A twin turbo C5 Z06 Corvette was seen later in the day spinning its DOT drag radials well past the half track point and netting a somewhat laughable 14 second timeslip.

Soon after we arrived, the “serious” cars started to show up on the back of trailers. This included Arek’s S4, the Corvette with a comically large pumpkin sized turbo and a handful of cars from the Polish tuner VTG aboard a semi truck. Arek’s car was quickly unloaded and one of his Kreator Mocy mechanics gave it a final check to make sure all was good to go. We immediately noticed a few changes which had been made to the car since our last encounter. Red painted Garrett T28RS turbos were no longer peeking out though the hood, but instead had been replaced with larger Precision Turbo PTB-300-5032 model turbochargers. The new turbos were residing underhood (partially!) and were completed by Tial external wastegates. The exhaust pipes for the wastegates were now pointed straight up and shot though the hood. We expect an absolutely exotic sound.

Luckily enough for us we are about to find out first hand. Although Arek had plenty of other official SSS club duties t hat day he took a few moments to give us a ride in his wicked S4. Actually he invited us to jump in for the car’s shakedown run.

“Jump in!” Arek shouts, “and don’t worry about the seatbelt… just hang on real tight.”

At this point we know that the whole “hold on real tight” thing clearly goes without saying! With the “old” motor setup and lower ~8,000 RPM rev limit, the car was making in the neighborhood of 800 hp without the nitrous. Arek cleanly rolled the car out and short shifted 1st and 2nd gears. Once in 3rd and spinning about 3000 RPM on the tach, he finally punches it.

At first, not a whole lot seems to happen. The car accelerates somewhat briskly, but it’s quite obvious it’s longing to be a little further up in the rev range. A few short moments later, the tach is rounding 5,000 RPM and that’s when the real fun begins.

At this point the unfiltered open turbos scream a violent shriek as the tachometer, boost gauge, and speedometer shoot though their ranges at roughly the same rate as our insides to the back of the seat. Holy Hannah! Mothers, secure your children. To be honest, riding in a car this fast is something one cannot prepare for. We knew it was going to be intense and we prepared our body for it, but it was still an overwhelming experience.

We can do nothing but hold on tight (as previously directed) and break into a smile. Instantly the turbos spooled with a bang as the four quattro-driven Hoosier slicks officially lose their battle to fully harness the power at hand. Our clenched cheeks can clearly feel the car “crab” slightly since complete traction is nowhere to be found on the weather beaten airstrip.

Traction problems at 100 mph? You bet!

Just after the tach is completely buried past 7,000 RPM, Arek slams the shifter home into 4th. He’s quick, so quick the large turbos don’t have time to fall off of spool. A quick chirp proves the Hoosiers still aren’t up to the task at hand. 4th gear pulls just about as hard as 3rd though we finally get the feeling that the tires are hooking up.

By the time we are ready for 5th gear we’re past the end of the quarter mile trap area and going well over 140 mph. Arek grabs the stock brakes which do a respectable job of slowing the significantly lightened car down. Following a quick U-turn we blast back towards the starting line. The complete lack of sound insulation, large open exhaust piping, and open wastegates just a few feet in front of us equate to a tremendous sound that nearly matches the violence of the acceleration.

The performance is truly mind blowing. How fast? 0-60 mph comes in under 2 seconds. 100 mph flys by somewhere around 6 seconds. If all goes well, this S4 will trip the quarter mile traps at about 9.7 seconds at a speed over 145 mph. Arek is happy with the shakedown run as we pull back into the pits.

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