In 2008, Volkswagen of America took the bold step of launching its own single-make series for, of all things, its diesel Jetta model. The Jetta TDI Cup produced great racing and an inexpensive entry-level option for young drivers who were looking for a way into sedan, GT, and sports car racing. As part of the program VW put the competitors, all between the ages of 18 and 25, through a regime of physical fitness and high-level driver training carried out by the dedicated series coach, Jan Heylen. Now it’s your chance to become a racer in the making with your very own, free-to-drive Jetta TDI Cup Car, thanks to another Simraceway Test Drive Tuesday.
The Jetta TDI is based on its more powerful European sibling, whose 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder TDI engine produces 168 bhp, the race-prepared Cup had its torque pumped up from the road-going car’s total of 236 pound-feet. This, in combination with a pre-competition diet that produced a race weight of as little as 3,000 lbs, meant that this particular eco-warrior had no problems making the transition to track terror for its debut 2008 season.
Aiding this transformation was a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic DSG transmission as well as race-ready suspension and brakes. However, even bedecked in all of its red-hot racing finery, the Jetta TDI Cup still managed to retain its green credentials with a fuel economy that allowed it to contest the whole series on only two tanks of racing diesel.
The car, a front-wheel-drive turbo diesel, was without doubt a challenge for young drivers, many of whom had little racing experience, let alone experience of racing a car driven by the wheels in front of them. Understanding the set-up of the car was therefore absolutely crucial.
Heylen was quick to point out the importance of this knowledge with the Jetta. “Shocks and camber set up are really important for turn in with a FWD car. All FWD cars will have mid-corner-to-exit under steer (tight/push on exit meaning the car does not want to turn) and we worked hard to minimize it to a point where, on a new set of Pirellis, you could really drive it perfectly.”
Finding the limit of the car’s performance was one of the key elements of the competition that separated the experienced drivers from the rookies, particularly when it came to braking. This was something Jan noticed early each season: “the difference between the younger guys and the more experienced drivers was that the guys with experience didn’t drive so much on front tires. New guys went quick but really ate their front tires. The key to going fast is NOT to drive on the front tires. Trail-braking into the corners and getting the car to stop on the front tires won’t work. It’s all about braking early and carrying the speed into the corner without putting stress on the front. In the second halves of races, the younger, more aggressive guys would develop under steer because they had leaned way too much on their front brakes.”
So there you have it, one of the best training tools ever developed, hone your race craft and have huge amounts of fun in the process. All you have to do is log on to the Simraceway game client and download the VW Jetta TDi Cup Car during the offer period. And if you like what you see, and purchase the car during the promotion, you can take advantage of a massive 30% discount! If you want to read more about the Jetta Racing series and interviews with the coaches and drivers then check out our previous blog here.