Milltek Sport Golf GTI is good to go for Snetterton
It's probably fair to say that the Milltek Sport team had their fair share of reliability gremlins at the first two rounds of the Time Attack season – little things that tend to occur in motorsport – but it has affected their points haul so far. However, after a successful weekend at the recent Tuner GP in Hockenheim, with BTCC racer Tom Onslow-Cole behind the wheel of their Time Attack Club Pro 2WD VW Golf GTI racecar, team manager Phil Millington feels that the gremlins should now be banished, and driver Richard Marshall is looking forward to piloting a well dialled-in racecar.
Time Attack's pit lane correspondent Dan Anslow caught up with Phil and Richard ahead of Time Attack round 3, running at the fast and furious Snetterton circuit, this Sunday.
Richard, Snetterton this weekend – how do you feel?
Very positive. I know the circuit well and I enjoy driving it. We tuned the Golf GTI's handling at the Tuner GP with Tom Onslow-Cole doing the driving honours, and with just a few tweaks to the suspension – a little looser at the rear and a little firmer at the front – he was quick right away. It's a testament to the team and the Golf that Tom could take a car he'd never driven before and run in 5th position for much of the race – against some very powerful Chevrolet Corvettes, Nissan GT-Rs and Porsche 911s – and then finally finish in 7th. Tom is flying at the moment and it was great to have his set-up input on the Golf.
Have you driven the Golf since Tom fettled the chassis?
I haven't, and I'm very much looking forward to it. We have very similar driving styles, Tom and I – smooth, tidy and controlled - so I'm expecting to feel and enjoy the work he's done on the Golf. We had a couple of issues at the start of the season and not a great deal of pre-season testing with the Golf, so I don't really feel that I've found the limit of what the car can do. Not that we want to step over that limit and into the scenery, but the Golf felt like it had a lot of corner-speed potential, and I think now that we ran reliably throughout the Tuner GP and the team has had some good set-up time, that the car will feel fast, grippy and balanced at Snetterton.
What issues did you have at the first two rounds?
Nothing major. We had a driftshaft failure at Cadwell Park and a clutch bite issue at Croft, but when the car was on track and running well at these rounds we were setting lap times to keep with the competition.
We only decided to build and run the MK6 Golf in November of last year, and finished building it in February of this year. What with the cold and wet weather through March and April we just didn't get the testing – especially on warm tyres – that you want and need with a new car. But after many strong laps at the Tuner GP the car is looking reliable and balanced.
Snetterton is known as a power circuit. How do you think the Golf will perform?
We have around 400bhp from our 2-litre turbocharged engine, and around 515Nm of torque through a 6-speed manual gearbox, so we're not the most powerful car out there and Snetterton has long straights. I need to carry corner speed and manage the wheelspin on corner exit to make sure I hit the straights with a much speed as possible.
We ran a Nissan GT-R last year, with around 900bhp, and that car had plenty of speed for the Snetterton straights – up to 180mph - but when it came to the corners it really showed its 2,000kg weight. The Golf is much lighter, of course; has great balance through the bends and a nicely flat torque curve, so I expect a good showing at Snetterton with this package. We must score points this weekend and we are definitely going for a podium.
Do you have any further tweaks in mind for the Golf for Snetterton and what are your longer-term development plans for the car?
I'm going to leave the Golf on Tom's settings and see how it feels during the practice session and go from there. If we can exploit the full grip potential of the car we should do well. There are many things we could do with the car in the longer-term from a power point of view, but there is little point in having a huge amount of power if you can't put it on the track. The front-wheel drive cars will simply wheelspin with tons of horsepower. We have full data logging on our racecar, so we'll see what it's doing during the Snetterton sessions and see if there are improvements we can make. We are considering a DSG-type gearbox though.
So, with the Golf running well at the moment, can you now set your Time Attack goals for the season? Where do you want to be?
(Laughs) Well, I know where I want to be - on the top step! We need to score points this weekend, and I think we are on course to do that. The car is looking balanced and reliable and as the season unfolds I'd like to be on track to take the win in our Club Pro 2WD class. The Club Pro RWD cars are about 3 seconds a lap ahead of us at the moment; beating the front-wheel drive cars on corner-exit grip every time. But, that's not to say that we won't be honing the Golf's many positive points with the aim of getting closer and closer to the rear-wheel drive cars.
Great, thanks Richard. Good luck and we'll look forward to seeing you at Snetterton.
Now we turn our attention to the company behind the team; Milltek Sport, and company managing director Phil Millington. Milltek Sport is 30 years old this year, sells in 70 countries through 450 dealers, and enjoys a busy racing calendar that tests their products and showcases them to the public.
Phil, why the Golf? Especially after the Time Attack Club Pro AWD Championship-winning Nissan GT-R from last year.
Milltek's core business is VAG cars; we sell a lot of exhausts for Volkswagen Audi Group models all over the world, so this VW Golf MK6 was a natural choice for us. We did consider an Audi RS4 as our next racecar after the GT-R, but when you put the RS4 next to its Japanese competition from the same Time Attack class – Evolutions and Imprezas – the Audi just comes in as too heavy.
Tell us about the exhaust on your Golf racecar.
Two-thirds of the exhaust system on our Golf GTI racecar is a Milltek off-the-shelf product. Our customers can see us racing with our products on Sunday and can call our dealers to buy the same equipment on Monday.
We have many returning customers to the Milltek brand and we feel it's important for them to trust our brand as much as they trust the brand of car that they wish to fit our products to. That's why we test our products to the maximum on the racetrack. Racing is aspirational and we want our products to reflect that aspiration.
We also wish to create a desire to own our products, because, after all, you don't need to fit a Milltek exhaust to a car that's between brand new and five years old (Milltek's main market); you have to want to do it. Otherwise, why would people spend the money! Competition is a good way, we feel, of bringing that desirability to our Milltek brand.
And how are you feeling for Snetterton?
Tom did a great job in our Golf GTI at the Tuner GP and with that valuable set-up time, positive race result and some good running from a reliability point of view, I'm happy to share Richards quiet confidence for the racing this Sunday.