The Nürburgring Nordschleife is an unforgiving beast. Over 13 miles of unforgiving tarmac that snakes its way through the verdant Eifel forest; it really does take no prisoners. A lap that begins in sunlight may turn to rain, fog or even snow by the time you’re halfway around. It is not a place for the faint-hearted. But therein lies its appeal. The very nature of this ultimate ‘toll road’ means it attracts many thousands of visitors. From seasoned drivers keen to enjoy every twist and turn as they chase a Bridge to Gantry time; to beginners taking it steady, happy just to be at this legendary circuit; its appeal is enduring. The brutal nature of the Nordschleife means that is has become the place to test cars. It’s not surprising, then, that manufacturers queue up to test their top secret new models here. You can see the heavily disguised mules being flung around by expert test drivers – if a car can perform well in this hostile environment, it will perform well anywhere.
It’s for this very reason that we of KW Automotive, one of the world’s most respected suspension manufacturers have a base here. Consequently, the UK arm of the business run by MD, Richard Good, spends a lot of time out here. So when their latest project S1 needed a full shakedown, the KW team headed to the Ring. The car itself was purchased with a plan already in mind. “We wanted something to showcase the KW Clubsport range of coilovers,” says MD, Richard. “We’ve shown what our Variant 2 and 3 kits can do, but not really pushed the Clubsport range,” he adds. “Part of the challenge is making people aware of the differences between V3 and Clubsport. If you buy an S3 for example, a lot of people want to add some power, an exhaust and lower it. They want something that’s good for daily use and the occasional track outing. The Variant 3 is perfect for this,” he continues. “But, as soon as you get more serious; take out some weight; add semi-slicks etc, the Variant 3 is a bit soft.”
After two years adapting Variant 3 kits for those that wanted firmer spring rates for track days, KW decided to create the Clubsport solution – specifically tailored to the track enthusiast who demands more. The challenge was getting the message across that the Clubsport kit is a more track-focused solution, but not at the expense of on-road comfort. And so project S1 was born. “We thought about a Porsche,” smiles Richard, “but they’re fast out of the box, so by adding our suspension, we’d just be making a fast car even faster.” The Audi on the other hand offered something else. “The S1 is okay in stock form but, for me, it’s a little boring,” admits Richard. Not to say that the baby quattro is a bad car. Far from it. I’ve driven several, including Revo’s 340bhp tuned example and it’s one of the most fun Audis I’ve ever driven. But, there’s the point – it’s been tuned. In standard trim they are a little safe; there’s so much more to be had.
“We wanted to make the S1 more aggressive,” states Richard.
If it was to showcase the Clubsport coilovers, it had to have the full Clubsport package in the same vein as the mighty Porsche GT3 RS – that meant bucket seats, a half-cage and, of course, semi-slicks. With a virgin white S1 quattro delivered, work began on upgrading it. As you’d expect, the first thing to do was get it to KW’s local track, Brands Hatch, to give it a shakedown. After all, it’s hard to measure improvement if you don’t have a stock car to compare it with.
KW’s resident test driver, Marc Kemp, was drafted in to put the little Audi through its paces. As a professional instructor and Time Attack driver, he’s also a Ring veteran with well over 1000 laps under his belt. It’s safe to say the man can pedal a bit. Unsurprisingly for a stock road car, the limits were soon reached and it was clear that huge improvements could be made with suspension upgrades (a tendency to under steer and a lack of willingness to turn in being the main issues.)
The S1 was rolled into KW’s workshop to have the Clubsport kit fitted up. The coilovers are fully adjustable for height, plus bump and rebound, and can be spec’d with adjustable top mounts for that extra fine tuning of the suspension geometry – essential to create a capable track car. This would allow the toe and castor to be tweaked for that crisp and predictable turn in. “With the first test Clubsport kit fitted, I thought it felt great,” comments Richard, but test driver Marc spotted a couple of flaws at Brands Hatch.
“Coming into a dip, the rear springs compressed so much that the rear wheel was in the arch – it wasn’t stiff enough under extreme conditions.” KW decided they needed to find a better balance. “We also found that if the rear end squats to a certain point, it trips a sensor and the ECU puts the car into limp mode – not what you want on track!” he laughs. “It’s things like this that you can only find out by testing things properly on track.”
With a list of improvements noted, Richard, Marc and the team headed out to the Nürburgring. The first stop was KW’s partners, Raeder Motorsport. Here technician, Christoph, was tasked with carrying out the adjustments they wanted, which included firmer front and rear spring rates, plus adjustments to the toe, castor and a full corner weight set-up. All of this took a full day; then it was time to test it on track.
With over 1000 laps behind him, Marc Kemp knows every inch of the Nordschleife and he wasted no time in putting the S1 through it paces. “We joined an RMA track day,” recalls Richard, “it was full of high-end cars with well-heeled owners, and they were all amazed by the little Audi,” he smiles. “We had people coming over to say how impressed they were and wanting to find out what we’d done to the suspension.” The fact Marc was able to leave cars with much more power behind in the turns, demonstrated how well set up it had been. “They caught up with us on the straights, but once into the turns, we could brake later and turn in much harder; leaving them behind again.”
The revisions that had been suggested at Brands Hatch had now been fully proven on the most demanding track in the world. Of course, with the suspension set-up nailed, the rest of the car couldn’t be left stock. Cobra supplied a bespoke set of their latest seats, complete with KW logos and custom sub frames, to get them sitting nice and low (when your test driver is 6ft 5in, things like this matter!) The rear seats have been trimmed to match and Cobra went the extra mile by treating the gear and hand brake gaiters, together with the door cards to Alcantara with contrasting red stitching. It really does look like an OEM factory special.
The final interior touch is a half-roll cage. It was designed and fitted by German company, Wiechers, who specialise in prototype cars; in fact they built the roll cage fitted to Audi’s very own TT Clubsport Turbo. It uses the seatbelt mounting points to create a truly bolt-in affair that can be easily removed. Although this S1 is very much about showcasing what can be achieved with the Clubsport suspension, there was no way the engine was going to be left stock. The 2.0 TFSI unit kicks out a healthy 228bhp from standard, but there’s a lot more to be had with some simple upgrades.
Revo were chosen to supply a custom map, and there’s a full Scorpion exhaust fitted. The turbo back exhaust includes a sports cat and some purposeful looking quad oval tailpipes. Together with a Revo carbon air intake, power is around 320bhp with over 360lb/ft of torque. That may not sound huge, but bear in mind this is in an extremely well set-up car. The engine and chassis upgrades combine to create a devastatingly capable package on the road or on track days.
As race instructor Marc Kemp says, “I was very surprised; I didn’t expect it to do what it did. You [Richard] must be very pleased with that.” And there we have it. KW’s S1 quattro Clubsport is a little monster.
Photos KW UK, Story also published in Audi Tuner UK