A couple of weeks ago, VW gave me the opportunity to test out one of their Jetta TDI Cup Race cars at Portland International Raceway. It is the first diesel powered racecar I have ever driven, but surprisingly there was very little difference from most other racecars. The biggest difference is the torque coming off the corners. You can pull from 3000RPM and you actually shift well before redline.
The first couple of laps I found myself recalibrating my senses to the car. The TDI Cup Cars run real racing rubber. Michelin slicks that stick in situations that other tires would have flown into the weeds. Even most of the track cars I have driven recently have been on DOT race rubber, which is a far cry from purpose built slicks. The braking force is probably the most shocking. Stopping distances are probably sixty percent of what they would be on a standard Jetta. Thanks in part to the extra grip and the big R8 brakes up front. With cold tires, I found myself sideways in the braking zones. The rear end just wasn’t hooking up with all the weight transfer and the rear end would quickly want to pass the front. Once up to temp, the car is amazingly balanced. Much less understeer than I had anticipated. The Cup Cars are equipped with limited slip differentials, which make all the difference in front wheel drive cars. If the car does start to push a little, you can get in the gas a little harder and it will actually end up pulling it back in line. Driving a full race prepped car with racing seats and harnesses is always a treat. Most enthusiasts don’t realize just how much faster you can be when you aren’t concentrating on holding yourself in the seat. It is a beautiful feeling to be able to just get in and drive. If you have never had the opportunity to drive a real racecar, I suggest you find a driving school that offers them for training. A true racecar will change your whole perspective on what a performance car should be.