The brief was simple – to build the ultimate 500bhp Stage 3 MQB car that’s purpose-designed for track and competition use, yet still road legal. Can it be done? What car is best? VW Golf R, Audi S3, Seat Cupra, a VW Golf GTI maybe? Let’s find out.
So many models and options to choose from on the MQB platform – 2WD, 4WD, hatch, saloon… so that was the first decision to make. What would be best for a track car? I wanted something tuneable that could also still be used for the school run.
Having come from competing successfully in my Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5RS the ‘new car’ was always going to have big boots to fill. The Lancer Evo is a ‘legendary’ platform and despite mine only running 400bhp courtesy of an OEM Evo IX crate engine, OEM Evo IX turbo and manual 5-speed gearbox it’s a car that’s far greater than the sum of its parts.
For this new project I considered a Seat Cupra, a Golf GTi (both FWD), a Golf R and also an RS3 saloon (although not an MQB car). Most importantly, I wanted to stick with something that was as close as feasibly possible to the Evo.
Choosing the right track car
I decided that a 2017 Audi S3 8V saloon was the answer!
2.0L, 4-cylinder, 4WD, saloon in shape – all things it shares with the Evo. With the car chosen I needed a VAG performance specialist to work with on the project.
Alex Kerr runs AKS and has a vast depth of knowledge on all things VAG. I found a car for sale and we decided to make the two-hour journey together to view it; I bought it there and then – and drove home. I only went to view this one car but you know when it feels right, it just feels right.
Factory spec – 310PS with the 7-speed DQ381 DSG and Audi’s stunning Panther Black paintwork in amazing condition. With only one-previous owner and just 17,000 miles on the clock.
And… completely factory standard in EVERY way. Perfect.
Audi S3 – perfect base for the project!
A couple of months of inactivity passed due to the virus hitting Blighty. Although I did put Revo Stage 1 on the car to try it out for a while and used it for a few family trips. This took it to 370BHP and 488NM.
You can watch my video on the Stage 1 phase HERE. Very impressive.
I would 100% recommend this. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything else with your car this is the best bang-for-buck mod you can do.
No joke the Stage 1 software absolutely transforms the car! Delivering 0-61mph in a measured 3.47 seconds, too (check the video out).
But that wasn’t where this car was heading, no sir. The build was always going to go way further than that. Respecting the government guidelines, I managed to get a week-long window booked in at AKS HQ and we hit the entire project in one go!
The journey from standard to Track car in just 7 days, begins.
In just 7 working days we went from a factory standard Audi S3 saloon (running Stage 1 software), to a stripped out track-ready beast!
Furthermore, this is not your ‘average’ Stage 3 car either! It’s fully loaded in every other department too.
Because it’s designed to be a track car I wanted to uprate absolutely EVERYTHING possible so it would cope with laps. Heat and oil management, as well as handling, in particular, are crucial.
So it has loads of bits that are way over what you’d ever need purely for road use, which I’ll cover further below.
The Good Stuff
We fitted the Revo Performance Pack, which consists of the super-efficient bar and plate intercooler, throttle and charge pipes and complete air intake system. I went with the open cone to increase the induction sounds. And a few other goodies, too.
Stage 2 retains the OEM turbo. So the decision was made to effectively skip Stage 2 altogether. We removed the OEM IS38 IHI turbo and replaced it with the brand new Revo IS38 ETR V2 turbo along with upgraded the LPFP and performance ECU software – taking the car to Stage 3.
A Performance Pack will get you to Stage 2 power levels. Circa 400bhp/550nm on the factory turbo. The ETR turbo kit builds on top of that to take you to Stage 3 and 500bhp+/630nm+.
You can read a detailed article I wrote HERE on the Revo V2 turbo development.
BIG Turbo for the Track Car Build?
The eagle-eyed among you will know the V2 uses red anodised parts and the one we fitted on my car doesn’t. That’s because we fitted the OG Revo development V2 unit!
First we sent it back to OD for a full development checkover and precautionary rebuild. Purely because it had been put through hell on Revo’s own development car for many months.
It is EXACTLY the same turbo as the ones HERE, just without the red anodised parts – and now as good as new.
Why take the Audi to Stage 3 and 512bhp when the aim was to match the Evo, which is 400bhp?
Well, the answer is simple. Weight!
In other words, the Evo is much lighter than the S3. As a result, the effective power to weight ratio of each car means the S3 needs a dollop more power to draw it level with the Evo.
I’m skipping ahead a bit here, but while we’re on the topic I weighed both cars. The S3 is 1,457KG with no driver and 1/3 tank of VPower (actually lighter than I thought it would be). The Evo is 1,215KG with no driver and a 1/4 tank of Shell’s finest pump fuel.
EVO vs S3 – Power to weight ratio
This sets the power to weight ratios as follows:
S3 – 351BHP per tonne | Evo 5RS – 329BHP per tonne
In fact, pretty evenly matched really with only ~20BHP in it. You can watch the video on getting the S3 weighed for more information HERE.
With Revo parts taking care of the power side of things there were still A LOT of bits to fit. In the meantime I ordered many of the parts through Demon Tweeks – they offer excellent customer service and next day delivery. Perfect for any track car build when you need parts quickly.
The other parts are items available to buy from AKS. Alex Kerr really knows his stuff on this platform, so it was very reassuring to be working with him and AKS head technician, Vincent Hickman.
No Corners Cut
Of course, there would be no corners cut on this track car build. And, let’s face it, there’s a fair investment in this car. It has to be right.
So, let’s do a full breakdown on the rest of the car spec.
This is pretty extensive, but hopefully it will help anyone who wants to do something like this. Or anyone who wants to take elements of this project and implement it on their own build.
The FULL BUILD SPEC VIDEO can be found here for you to watch.
To achieve the sort of power numbers we’re making a performance exhaust system is critical. Obviously, there’s the additional benefit of vastly increased sound HERE, yet still well within track db limits. But it’s the optimised flow that’s most important.
Adding A Milltek Cat
We also added a weld-in Milltek cat in the centre section too. Mainly for road legality and MOT purposes. More importantly, the motorsport (MSUK) regs require a cat. Given the car is for road, track and comp use it was essential.
Critical. Both for water and oils. We removed all of the OEM radiators and replaced them ALL with CSF MQB Performance models. A triple-pass main rad and the other two smaller quadruple-pass CSF rads AVAILABLE HERE located on the front corners of the car (behind the grilles) to cool the water/DSG.
Not only to help with oil temps, but also to make sure we do everything possible to prevent oil surge/starvation.
AKS retro-fitted a 19-row Mocal oil cooler and Mocal oilstat/thermostat along with an iABED baffled and gated sump. On top of this we added the Racing Line Oil Management kit, which adds an uprated PCV with baffle, breather lines and a small catch tank. As well as the washer bottle relocation kit to offer a bit more room in the bay.
All of this is to protect the engine under hard braking and high speed, prolonged cornering. Bare in mind the 265-wide semi-slick Nankang AR-1 tyres also offer MUCH more grip for the systems to deal with.
Due to the oil cooler and upgrades the system holds a total of 9L of oil, much more than OEM specs. That helps in a number of ways – and more oil means it doesn’t get as hot, as quickly, either. I use the brilliant HKS Super Turbo Racing 15w 50 in both this car and the Evo. It’s superb stuff!
The sump is critical in all of this – it’s a beautifully crafted piece of artwork by iABED, which is gated and baffled to help prevent surge as the oil moves around.
We also fitted an air-con delete kit while we were in there too.
We ripped out (carefully removed) the Audi factory Mag ride that came on the car and replaced it with 2-way adjustable Bilstein CLUBSPORT suspension with 100N/mm springs all round.
Wow, wow, wow – this suspension is incredible!
The damping is amazing and it’s very usable on the road. But when you’re really pushing on track it’s just another level – offering incredible performance and stability, with a huge amount of independent compression and rebound adjustments.
The Upgrades Continue…
Still, on the theme of handling, we added quite a lot of other upgrades here too.
I went for the full suite of SuperPro products for the car – their MQB Handling Package – which replaces the factory bushes, drop links and front/rear ARB’s with brilliantly engineered SuperPro uprated items.
I also chose to replace the front arms with the uprated SuperPro alloy alternatives.
Yes, it’s a pretty low mileage, ‘new’ car and the factory bushes are by no means ‘worn out’. But the SuperPro items are made from a different durometer material, resulting in hugely increased performance, more stability and less movement. Essentially giving an all-round tighter and more precise feel to the car.
As a result, this means less engine/gearbox movement under load. Again, a great addition in conjunction with everything else we’ve done.
As you can begin to see, this car has everything, but all for good reason. I wanted to make sure that we addressed everything on the car to make it the best it could possibly be.
Track car. Pump fuel.
The car uses 99RON Shell VPower. It retains the OEM injectors, but we uprated the coil packs to RS3 versions for improved performance and reliability and changed the plugs to NGK Competition.
It isn’t necessary on this car to change the HPFP so that’s a factory item. The in-tank LPFP, however, does need changing to the uprated version from Revo to keep up with the fuelling demands of Stage 3.
It’s all well-and-good adding power, but braking is actually more important! Well, if you can’t stop then… erm!
I went for the 6-pot Revo by Alcon kit with 380x32mm discs on the front. Subsequently paired with HEL braided lines and Pagid RS29 pads. This is a brake pad I have used for a long time and one I also use on the Evo too with the 8-pot K-Sport kit.
To help retain the brake balance and improve rear braking performance/stability, we changed the rear to an uprated 356mm disc kit from Vagbremtechnic. This retains the OEM rear caliper, but uses a bracket kit to reposition it. A Ferodo DS2500 pad and HEL lines complete the rear set up.
Fluid-wise I only use one type – HKS Racing Pro. I use it in the Evo too, it has a ridiculously high boiling point and performs incredibly well on both the road and track.
DSG – The Game Changer
The mighty 7-speed DQ381 with the Stage 3 TVS race file.
Obviously DSG is THE big game changer here over the manual Evo. The shift times are vastly reduced over a manual and seamless every time – no matter how well you can heel and toe (and how fast you are capable of pushing that stick around) there’s no comparison.
And, bare in mind that on track (depending on the circuit) one lap could consist of 30+ up/down shifts – that’s a lot of time saved.
3.2sec to 60mph on a wet road (with wheel spin) using a Draggy suggests the car is quick. And I’d be confident in saying that it will make it into the high 2’s in the dry.
Wheels & Tyres
I wanted to achieve the widest set-up possible, without modifying the arches in any way and with no rubbing. And that’s exactly what we did.
These are the best semi-slick tyre I have used to date and the CR10 rims suit this car perfectly. Visually they’re a little bit like the Pretoria alloys that come on the Golf R.
They offer the perfect fitment with no mods, no rubbing and the arch liners still in place – all balanced and fitted in-house at AKS.
The Whole Package
As a package the car is incredible in terms of the way it performs. And you can probably well understand why with the mods we have added.
But then comes the interior…
This is often what separates a ‘track car’ and a usable road car. The term ‘track car’ is often used as an excuse to rip everything out in the pursuit of weight-saving. “But it’s a track car mate…” (haha).
Absolutely fine if that’s what your build is about (I do have another car that 100% fits that category haha), but that’s not this one.
The Audi interior is WAY too nice for that and so we went for a different approach – more of a clubsport type, but with no cage.
Wireless Charging. In A Track Car?
In terms of ‘luxuries,’ the car retains EVERYTHING it came with from the factory – with the exception of Mag Ride and Air Con, which we removed.
Virtual dash, full sound system, phone connectivity, wireless charging, cruise control, all lighting, all door cards, electric mirrors, climate control etc. You get the picture – everything works.
We removed the OEM heavy black leather, heated front seats and replaced them with a pair of FIA Sabelt X-PAD’s from Demon Tweeks.
I needed seats that could offer the necessary performance on track, but it just so happens they’re damn comfy for the road too. The car is driven to and from the track/events as well.
Perfect Family / TRACK Car
AKS welded a T45 harness bar between the rear suspension turrets, which was purpose-designed to act as a harness bar for the 6-point OMP HANS harnesses. The bar also doubles as a rear strut brace, too.
This means the rear seats can be folded flat and the harnesses used. Or the harnesses can be rolled up and packed away in the boot if you want to use all 5 seats, as the OEM belts are all still in.
See – it’s the PERFECT family car too 😉
I changed the S3 wheel for an alcantara-trimmed RS3 version, which again retains all of the OEM controls. And we added some of the RS3 dials on the virtual dash via VCDS.
With the Bilstein suspension sitting perfectly and the wide wheel set-up filling the arches to perfection the car was already looking mean.
To add to that I switched the front grille for an RS3 one and Rukus Customs did a de-chrome on the window trims and carbon-dipped the rear diffuser.
A beautifully crafted, genuine carbon boot lip spoiler replaces the black factory lip, and adds some subtle purpose. The black badges front and rear replace the OEM chrome ones.
I took it to an independent dyno – MSL Performance in Birmingham. These guys specialise in high end (some 1,000+BHP) Mercedes builds and have a 4WD Dynojet dyno in house.
The S3 rolled a peak of 512BHP and 630NM at the crank on 99RON Shell VPower. You can WATCH THE DYNO VIDEO for more.
It’s 4WD (obviously) and doesn’t waste a drop of that power either. Getting it all down on the tarmac through those 265-wide semi-slicks and Quattro/Haldex system.
The final look is reasonably subtle and understated, yet purposeful. And the performance? Unreal. Perfection!
What A Transformation
A monstrous transformation in 7 working days, although you wouldn’t realise it at first glance. It isn’t a ‘sleeper’, but you see my point – credit to AKS for their hard work and attention to detail.
And the car to drive? Now with an extra +200BHP and +230NM of torque courtesy of the Revo Stage 3 package it’s absolutely night and day from the timid (relatively speaking) 310PS S3 that I bought.
During the second-half of 2020 I used the car for some track days and competitive events successfully – hillclimbing at Shelsley Walsh and sprinting it at both Croft and Cadwell circuits. Achieving some really good results and silverware to match.
Watch the car in action
In conclusion, with restrictions due to the virus, there wasn’t an awful lot else to go and compete in with the car. We certainly made the best of the situation and the results in the car speak for themselves.
Super Clean Track Car – Meguiar’s Ceramic
This is not a ‘show car’ build, however, it’s certainly a very, very clean car. Black is notoriously difficult to look after, but I have pampered it with the very best Meguiar’s products available.
It could be used daily if needed – I don’t by the way – instead, it spends most of its time sat under a cover on trickle charge, in a garage. Patiently waiting for the next outing to get its teeth into.
Is it the ultimate 4-cylinder performance road legal track car?
Well, that’s for you to decide… it’s rapid, faultless, very clean and competitive. Tick, tick, tick, tick.
I’ve driven it to and from every event and enjoyed the road trips in comfort with plenty of coffee and an occasional KFC on my travels for good measure.
Thanks for reading, Alex