Sunday, September 29, 2019

Getting started with modding the GTi

Although I bought the MK7 GTi last week, I didn't take it home until this weekend (thanks Alex for the assist). I had already been buying requisite mods while I was waiting and finally got started with installing some of it today. The first thing I actually did was to unpack the car and take inventory of all the stuff the previous owner gave me which included a set of stock wheels with winter tires, the original downpipe and the roof rails.

Aww, the original downpipe...go straight to storage lol (9/29/19)
It's nice that he already upgraded the downpipe but I personally would've picked up one that has a flex pipe just like the OEM one to avoid cracking over time as the engine shifts. We'll be remedying that in the not too distance future. For now, I'm just keeping the original downpipe safe since you never know when you need to put the stock cats back on.

Proclip mount with Baseus magnetic base - 9/29/19
I general choose Proclip anytime I get a car mount except where there is a better design (i.e. the Rennline mounts for the Porsches) but there's a running joke that anytime I buy a proclip mount for a car before I actually buy it, I end up not buying the car. I was batting 0% so far but I was feeling good about this GTi so I bought the mount early and finally broke the curse. It felt satisfying to install a Proclip I bought in the car I actually intended to buy haha.

Raceseng Spherology Custom in Translucent Red - 9/29/19
I also ordered a custom Spherology shift knob from Raceseng in Translucent Red.  I have the exact same shift knob in the Cayman but in yellow. I think it looks and feels great and if I wasn't such a Mugen whore, I'd probably replace the Mugen shift knob in Bumblestook with the same kind. It sits a bit lower than stock and combined with the short shifter installed in the car makes the throws pretty short, maybe a tad too short but I'm sure I'll get used to it. It just looks so good with the little red accents in the car like the stitching. I also love that it's weighted. It just feels so good with every shift.

Raceseng Spherology Custom in Translucent Red - 9/29/19
Random weird things happen on the road all the time so I've started to equip all my cars with dash cams. I decided to basically do the same thing I did in the Cayman using the exact same hard-wire kit and camera. It's similarly easy to do on the GTi, you just have to remove the mini compartment under the steering wheel to get to the fuse panel. I opted to tap into the last 10A fuse slot in the lowest row which is for the left side DRL which is only on if the car is on.

Tapping into the fuse box - 9/29/19
Testing camera works when car is turned on - 9/29/19
Once I had all that working. I just had to pop out the side panel and the wire up the A-pillar then across the headliner. I may adjust things a bit further in the future but for now, this seems like a good spot.

Running power up the side panel into the a-pillar - 9/29/19
Tucked into the top of the a-pillar
dashcam mounted and operational - 9/29/19
I decided to standardize all my cars to run Titanium wheel bolts or nuts (whichever applies). The GTi is no different so I got a set of 27mm R14x1.5 Titanium wheel bolts from ECS Tuning. While they do offer weight reduction, my primary reasoning for getting these is not having to deal with rust. It also gave me a chance to double-check the torque specs on all these bolts. I generally don't trust anyone else when it comes to securing wheels on my car so I wanted to make sure they were all to torqued to spec anyway.

ECS Tuning titanium conical wheel bolt - 9/29/19
The last project I wanted to tackle, I, unfortunately, had to abort. I forgot that I left my triple square kit in the Cayman and it's at the shop getting work done right now so, for now, I spend time to take a look at what I need to do. The issue is that all Golfs including the might Golf R have plastic oil pans. This is totally fine. Lots of things on cars are plastic now but the problem is that it actually is one of the lowest points of the car and I'm worried that driving around NYC roads something will kick up and hit it and things will poorly.

That honeycomb looking thing is the oil pan - 9/29/19
Well, you can solve this a few ways including replacing it with a metal one and/or adding a metal aftermarket skid plate. However, another great option is actually OEM. The Golf Alltrack was designed to do a bit of "off roading" so it was fitted from the factory with a rugged plastic (and also kevlar reinforced) tray that extends all the way past the oil pan. You can buy these as a kit from several vendors so naturally, being the highly risk adverse person that I am, I picked up one of these.

OEM GTi splash shield
The Alltrack undertray with brackets and fasteners
You can see how much bigger the Alltrack tray is. It's secured to brackets that mount to the frame up front and 3 big bolts to the subframe plus a few screws on each side for good measure. It does mean this panel needs to be removed for oil changes but the extra bit of protection is worthwhile in my book. I'm not going to lower the car to the point where I'm worrying about any kind of direct big impact which I don't think this will help with anyway (i.e. hitting a curb) but for random rocks that might come flying, this will do an adequate job of deflecting those projectiles away from the pan. I'll create a separate post documenting that install when I get to it. Those brackets are particularly annoying to install and while there are many posts about how to install these in the forums, the lack of visual reference (photos) is sorely lacking.

I ran out of time today but there'll be a few more little bits and pieces that need to be taken care of before she takes the place of the Touareg in the city with me.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Final Track Day for 2019 - NYST with S2K Takeover

Despite the damp, cold and extremely foggy conditions leading up to the first session, today was about as good as it gets. Sunny, not too warm and perfectly dry track. This is my last track day for the season and doing it with S2K Takeover was the best way to do it. It's always such a chill, friendly environment where you can go out and just enjoy driving your car and improve on your own times among friends. We had so many sessions, I didn't even do them all. I think I stopped after a total of around 2 hours of seat time. I had frankly used up all the adrenaline I could muster and I've always made it a point to stop anytime I notice my mind starting to wander. That's usually when you go from having a great time to having a really bad time all in a split second so I know myself enough to call it quits while I'm ahead.

Showing up at sunrise - NYST - 9-27-2019
S2K Takeover
My goal was to have fun, bring the car home in one piece on its own power and maybe at least try to improve on my personal best time at this track. I'm happy to say that I was able to do all three. This track isn't very forgiving when it comes to mistakes so I've always left enough safety margin to correct mistakes if needed. With each session I just focused on one specific corner at a time, trying different lines to see how they felt and pushing the car just a little bit more to explore the limits without just trying to pull a hail mary.

Track day complete - 9-27-2019

NYST - 9-27-2019

In the end, I found almost a second improvement from my previous visits here with a new personal best at 1:43:37 as measured by Track Addict hooked up to my QStarz external GPS. There's still plenty of time to be had out there but I'm quite content incrementally working my way to a better time with each visit. Some people thrive on doing track events because of competition. For me, it's much more about being in an environment where I can use potential of the car and learn new things. On a side note, the Advan A052s are working fantastically as a track tire. The grip is pretty consistent lap after lap with good feedback. I'm still somewhat rubbing on the rear bumper tabs so I'll have to do a bit more trimming for clearance but I'm definitely very happy with these tires so far.

Bumblestook @ S2KTakeover - NYST - 9-27-2019 - 1:43:37 - New PB

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Red Hot Chili Hatch - Project Sleeper

I know it's probably weird but I've been wanting to build a sleeper hot hatch for some time now and the MK7 Golf GTi checked all my criteria. I've been going back between a GTi and a Golf R but eventually felt the GTi was probably the more appropriate choice. It's less "special" and I therefore don't have to feel so precious about it. I've been on the hunt for some time now and I was really hoping to find one that was a 1-owner private sale where I could really talk to the current owner so I could get a real feel for how the car was used, and more importantly, taken care of.

2016 Tornado Red VW Golf GTi - "Chili" - 9-21-2019
After several months of randomly seeing what was out there, I found this one perusing the forums. It's a 2016 Tornado Red Golf GTi 6MT with Performance Pack (LSD + Golf R brakes), Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC - Electronic shocks) and Lighting Package with just over 50K miles. It isn't stock but the modifications were ones I'd likely have done myself. Curious, I contacted the seller, Mike, and we had a really good chat on the phone where it was very clear to me he was a real car enthusiast. Not only was he able to tell me the entire history of the car since buying it new but when we talked about each mod there was a clear rhyme and reason to everything. I may have gone a slightly different way in some areas but for the most part I understood his choices. This was his daily driver and his modification were in the direction of a reliable, performance daily. It was also very obvious to me that we had similar car maintenance philosophies. He had done lots of preventative maintenance, replacing weak parts with better ones when the opportunity presented itself.

PPI - 9-18-2019
Since he lives in PA, I scheduled a time for a test drive for this weekend and during the week we continued to chat about the car and I had him get a PPI done out of due diligence. As expected, the car passed with flying colors. The only item of note was that the rear brakes would need replacing in the next 4-5K miles which Mike already disclosed to me before the PPI. Otherwise, for a daily driven car, it was in really great condition. It has some very minor cosmetic flaws like a few rock chips on the bumper but nothing of major concern. After driving it today, I was sold. Everything felt tight, the upgraded clutch felt perfect and the power delivery smooth. I don't think the car "needs" anything right now but as you might expect from me, I've already got a build sheet going though I may execute it more slowly. The list of current installed mods are:


  • APR Stage 1 - 93 octane low torque profile 
  • CTS downpipe with high flow catalytic converter 
  • CTS turbo inlet 
  • CTS turbo muffler delete 
  • Forge turbo blanket 
  • 034 Motorsports Dog bone insert 
  • APR spherical pendulum mount 
  • ECS silicone air intake duct 
  • Dv+ diverter valve 
  • Audi RS 3 ignition coils 
  • Billet rear main seal
  • ECS adjustable short shift kit 
  • ECS Bleeder Block 
  • Eibach 25 mm rear sway bar 
  • Super pro polyurethane rear endlinks 
  • Sachs ZF performance clutch kit (stiffer pedal feel over stock,​ pressure plate from an Audi TT-RS)  
  • Mud flaps 
  • Whispbar roof rack 
  • Alzor 349 wheels with BBS center caps - Firestone Indy Firehawk 500 tires 
  • Stock rims with​ Falken snow tires
  • 15% full wrap window tint Gloss black mirror
This car will eventually replace my Touareg TDI as my primary vehicle. I'm going to have to make some adjustments to the window tint due to NY's stricter tint laws and have a few minor cosmetic / usability / reliability tweaks of my own to add as my first step but for the most part the exterior will remain mostly stock looking. Since I'm going for the full "sleeper" vibe, major changes will remain largely under the hood or very subtle. Ideally I just want someone walking by to just say "oh that's a cute Golf" and continue walking not knowing what lurks underneath. I only drive my primary vehicle 5-6k miles a year so while I am still going to make sure things are reliable, I can do a few things to spice things up for some spirited drives but this car will not be set up for any form of racing. It may or may not end up being the fastest straight line car I own haha. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Consolidating Blogs

Historically I've kept separate blogs for each car in the Steguis Motorsports fleet but that after a few years now that's started to make less sense. There's content I want to write about that's not specific to an individual car. New cars might get added and sometimes there's stuff going on between multiple cars so I decided to simply combine the blogs all into one place, all under the Steguis Motorsports flag.

If you're new here, then welcome, and if you're an old-time reader of my blogs, then I hope you'll find it convenient to see all the content in one place once and for all.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Tight Tight Tight...

Our final track day for the year is coming up in under two weeks so I wanted to get the last annoyance sorted on Bumblestook. While she's generally "good to go", I developed a weird suspension knocking sound on the right rear after the last track day that I initially thought was the diff but turned out to be wear on the rear upper control arm. The solid bushing wore just enough that at low speed (say below 5mph and especially when reversing) I would hear a noise coming from under the car. This wasn't detrimental to the handling but it was annoying me and frankly sounded embarrassing when moving around a parking a lot.

New rear upper control arm with rubber pushed taken out - 9/15/19
Bumblestook is always sorted and I hate leaving things unsettled so I ordered a brand new OEM rear upper control arm and had SJF take out the OEM rubber bushings so we could press in a fresh set of solid ones from Ballade Sport (same as the one I had on my arm). Luckily, Brad had an extra set lying around that he wasn't going to use so I bought it off him and so today I went to SJF Performance and he pressed the new bushing in and swapped it into the car.

New solid bushing getting pressed in - 9/15/2019
New upper rear arm installed - 9/15/2019
Mmm....fresh ball joint - 9/15/2019
Old upper control arm
I took it out for a test drive and everything is now tight again and no more annoying noises. Also, we finally put loctite on that driver side rear damper bolt that keeps backing out on its own. The passenger side, that already had loctite, hadn't moved at all but this one worked its way loose again since the last time I tightened it.

Loctite on driver rear damper bolt - 9/15/2019
Just as an extra precaution, we also put it on the alignment rack to double check the alignment and as expected it's all still good. We didn't expect it would move but I don't like question marks so taking the extra time to double check is worth it in my book.

Back on the alignment rack - 9/15/2019
I spent the rest of the day driving her around to make sure everything was feeling good and she's perfect again ready for some fun times with S2K Takeover at NYST.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Changing Air Filters

Since there was so much concrete dust around paddock during SCCA Nationals, I decided it would be a smart move to replace the air cabin filter and air intake filter. I probably didn't really need to do but it was good precaution.

Ne cabin air filter (in box), old filter shown - 9-14-2019
Changing the air filter should be pretty easy, it's just in a weird spot in the Cayman. Removing the access panel and the air filter cover is the easy part, the most annoying part is trying to squeeze the old filter out. I "upgraded" to an aFE filter last year when I bought the car and put a new one in today but sometimes I almost feel I should've kept the OEM paper filter as these aftermarket filters, while they do flow a bit more air, are a bit more tricky to get in and out of the tight air box.

Engine exposed to replace air filter - 9-14-2019
old filter (left), new filter (right) - 9-14-2019
The old filter was definitely quite dirty for being in there for only around 6k miles so I was glad to put the new one in.

New filter in place - 9-17-2019
Maintenance Updates:

Mileage: 39,414
- New air cabin filter
- New air intake filter

Monday, September 9, 2019

SCCA Solo National Championship 2019

Well after months of prep and car setup, it was finally time for the big show. This was my 7th trip to Nationals and one big difference from past years is that this time I was going to drive there in the competition car and not tow.

SCCA Solo Nationals - 9-5-2019
Photo by: GotCone
The first leg of the trip was pretty intense. We had so much rain that at one point I couldn't even see the car in front of me through all the spray even with my wipers at full speed.

Crazy rain - 9/2/2019
Eventually though the clouds cleared and we got to Iowa and it was nice and sunny. I convoyed out with James who was trailering his car and he was kind enough to bring my competition wheels/tires for me on the trailer so I could drive out on my OEM wheel with Continental DWS so the rain was no big deal.

Clear skies in Iowa 9/2/2019
We finally got to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Tuesday late afternoon. I was so tired that I just had a quick meal and got some rest. The next morning, I went to the nearby car wash to get her rinsed off. The ceramic coating is still doing wonders. A quick soap and rinse and she was back to being nice and shiny again.

Washing the car near the hotel 9/4/2019
My plan was to swap wheels and get tech inspection out of the way first thing in the morning so I could put the remaining required decals on the car before heading to the test 'n tune but it turned out that tech wouldn't be open until 1 pm so I ended up getting some practice in first. The only adjustment I need to make was an increase in front rebound by 1 click stiffer and upped the pressures to 32 psi front, 35 psi rear. She was feeling really neutral and controllable. I did an afternoon session too but failed to improve on my time. I couldn't tell if it was because of the car or all the concrete dust I was picking up in grid. Either way, I felt that doing more practice wasn't going to be helpful so that wrapped up the final day before competition.

Dusty test 'n tune grid - 9/4/2019
Day 1 of racing had us on the West Course. In grid, we had a nice variety of cars in STU which included EVOs, STIs, Focus RSes, Caymans, Corvettes, M3s and even a Mazdaspeed Miata. This is probably one of the most diverse grids at Nationals. The West Course was fun but didn't play to our strengths. There were quite a few 180 degree turns that were fairly slow and despite the Cayman having a good amount of torque, it wasn't as much compared to some of the competition. Combined with the taller gearing, I just couldn't accelerate out of corners like they could. The day ended with me sitting in 15 out of 27. The final trophy spot was 7th but the spread between 7th and 15th was only half a second so there was still a chance to move up on Day 2.

STU Grid - Day 1 - 9/5/2019
Day 2 of racing had us on the transition heavy East Course. This is where I could potentially make up time since if there's something a Cayman does well, it's transition. I coned my first run early on so I used the rest of the run to test for grip, slightly overdriving to feel where the limits were. On the 2nd run, I opted to do a safe run so I improved from run 1 only by a modest half a second but this time it was clean. For the final run, I was ready to give it everything I had. The first half was feeling really good. I felt my car placement was where I wanted and I was carrying more speed. Then, I misjudged my corner entry on the back left-hander. The car turned in almost too well and I went straight into a cone. There was no point in pushing the car further after that so I slowed it down and I'd have to end the day on my 2nd run's time. I did manage to move up a few more spots to 12th but still well out of trophies which was my goal for this event.

STU Grid - Day 2 - 9/6/2019
Was I upset or shocked? No. Frankly I'm even surprised I'm above mid-pack in an underdog car for the class. Also if I have to be honest with myself, unlike previous years I've been really chill all year. I've only done a handful of events and despite doing well in those including the ProSolo win earlier this year, I really didn't give it my all and practice and prep the way I normally would. The funny thing is that results aside, this has been my most fun Nationals to date. I truly enjoyed the drive out and back (who would'v thought GT2 bucket seats would be that comfortable) and with no real expectations for myself, I had no stress so while I'm disappointed I didn't do better, I'm also not heartbroken. Solo (autocross), is such an incredible sport. The level of skill you need to develop to be fast in only 3 runs each day at the national level can only ever be understood by those who have participated in it and I have massive respect for those that have done so successfully.

SCCA Solo Nationals - West and East Course run

The drive home was generally smooth but I did have two issues while I was out there. First, the frustrating P2196 and P2198 CEL is back. It seems to only happen if I let the car idle for a while. If I start the car and drive immediately like I did on the way home, I could go 1300 miles and never see the CEL go on. I suspect I have an exhaust leak again. The exhaust note has changed and I'm definitely hearing something different by passenger side header. I put the car on the quickjack but didn't see anything obvious so I'll have to have to shop look at it when it goes in later this month. The other issue was more of an annoyance than a real issue. The brake pad wear sensor light came up which I knew was total BS since I just got the brakes replaced on all four corners in June. Well, it turns out that the driver side rear sensor was routed behind the shock instead of over it which meant it was touching the axle boot and it eventually wore through and caused the open circuit that triggered the light. Since I'll probably be switching back and forth between street pads and track pads in the future, I opted to just bypass the sensor since track pads don't support the sensor anyway.

Doing a post-event inspection under the car - /9-9-2019
Brake pad wear sensor looped, soldered and heat shrink wrapped
I took all the decals off the car right after my final run but left the yellow stripes. Over this past week, it grew on me so I've decided to leave it on for now. I like that it adds a bit of character to the car without looking too over the top. Today,  I also put back the ducktail spoiler, my LED tail lights and the RS-style yellow door pulls.

Ducktail and rear lights re-installed - 9/9/2019
Yellow door pulls reinstalled - 9/9/2019
I also had PeeJ do a full hand wash to get all the nasty road grime off the paint. I don't think I remember seeing the OEM 19" Carrera wheels look that clean before. I don't plan to autocross Kay for the rest of the year so I'll probably leave these wheels on for the winter while I go and remove the OPR from the Advans.

So Clean...Thanks PeeJ! - 9/9/2019
So where do we go from here. Well, later this month she's heading back to Speedsport Tuning in CT to make her track "capable". I'm specifically saying "track capable" and not turned into a "track car" because it's not my intent to make a dedicated track car.. I want to have to option to be able to take her out to a PCA DE for fun anytime I want but I fully intend on still enjoying driving her everywhere else I want to go including autocross, mountain driving, road trips or whatever I feel like. There are just too many fun ways to enjoy driving and I choose not to have the option to not limit myself.