Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup reaches the midway point of the season at Autobahn Country Club Series takes part in the first professional race weekend at the Joliet, Illinois track July 25-26 When the green flag flies for the Autobahn Grand Prix...
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup reaches the midway point of the season at Autobahn Country Club
Series takes part in the first professional race weekend at the Joliet, Illinois track July 25-26
When the green flag flies for the Autobahn Grand Prix race weekend on July 25 and 26 at Joliet, Illinois' Autobahn Country Club, it will signal a return to road racing in the Chicago area after nearly 40 years. It also will mark the halfway point of the 2009 season for the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup, which is one of seven series competing during the race weekend. With four races under their belt, the 25 Jetta TDI Cup drivers will be challenged by the 21-turn, 3.56-mile road course. Autobahn is the second longest track that the series competes on during the season and has the most turns.
Unlike other circuits on the Jetta TDI Cup schedule where many of the drivers had previously competed in other series, only Melrose Park, Illinois' Timmy Megenbier has driven at Autobahn in the past. While he's never raced there, Megenbier has driven his personal Volkswagen Jetta GLI at an arrive-and-drive event at his "home track."
"It's a fairly flat track, but it's really long and very technical," Megenbier said. "The layout of the track and the number of turns means that you need to be on your game and get your braking points just right on every lap in order to get the optimum speed out of the car. If you miss just one corner, it can really mess up your lap, and you're going to give other drivers a chance to pass you. The challenge that this track presents is going to make for some interesting racing, and I hope that my knowledge of the circuit will give me a bit of an edge come race weekend."
So far this season, three drivers have found their way into victory lane with series rookies Joey Atterbury and Jake Thompson winning at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) and Megenbier taking the wins at the past two events at Miller Motorsports Park and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. With his win at Mid-Ohio, Megenbier moved into the Championship lead with a 19-point margin over second-place Atterbury.
Despite a mishap in the second race at VIR, Megenbier has been the dominant force in the series so far, having led 52 percent of all laps run. He's also finished on the podium in three events and scored one pole position. Megenbier credits his performance this season to the experience he gained while competing in the series in 2008 where he showed flashes of brilliance but also encountered problems in several races.
"Last season, I went out there and tried to drive the wheels off the car every race and didn't time my passes particularly well," Megenbier said. "This year, I've tried to run consistent laps and work on saving my tires. I've come to realize that you don't have to win races by a wide margin. Nobody remembers how much you won by. They just remember that you won."
The key to success so far this season seems to be consistency with only Atterbury, Andy Lee and AJ Nealey finishing in the top 10 in every race. Their performances have kept the points battle tight despite Megenbier's strong run. Only 36 points separate the top four drivers in the series standings (see below for full standings).
Maricopa, Arizona's Lee has been quietly putting together a solid season. Despite only having one podium finish (3rd at Mid-Ohio), the series veteran has never finished lower than sixth. His results have kept him in the Championship hunt where he's currently fourth in the standings.
"I've really been focusing on consistency because I learned last year that the drivers who were consistently in the top seven range were the ones who were there fighting for the Championship at the final race," Lee said. "While I'm happy with the results so far, I'm certainly not satisfied. I feel like I'm getting stronger every race, and I definitely want to move up a few spots on the podium. If I can do that without having an off race, I feel like I'll be in contention when we get to Road Atlanta."
Adding further incentive to the upcoming race at Autobahn is the opportunity to compete in the Jetta TDI Cup's sister series in Germany, the Polo Cup. The points leader after the race at Autbahn will travel to Oschersleben, Germany to compete against European drivers in the Volkswagen spec series there on August 2. Renton, Washington's Atterbury who is second in the standings is hoping that a strong run at Autobahn will help him make up a 19-point deficit in the standings and send him to race in Europe.
"Being able to race in Europe would be a great experience for me or any of the other drivers," Atterbury said. "The circuits are designed a bit differently there, and the competition seems to be a bit stiffer than we have here, so I'm sure it would be quite a challenge. At the same time, it would be great to measure myself against the drivers there. It would also be awesome to be able to race in Volkswagen's home country. Obviously, I have some points to make up, and it's going to be tough to beat Timmy on his home track, but I'm going to try to keep him in my mirrors and hope for the best."
Chicago Volkswagen dealer also a Volkswagen racer
Chicago's Richard Fisher is a rarity in the Volkswagen dealer world. Not only does his group of three Chicagoland VW stores (The Autobarn VW of Evanston, The Autobarn VW of Mt. Prospect and The Autobarn VW of Countryside) sell more new and certified pre-owned Volkswagens than any group in the Midwest, but Fisher is also an avid racer of Volkswagens.
His love of all things motorsports led him to become a founding member of Autobahn Country Club where he can be seen hitting the track in a variety of vehicles including his GTI, which he races in the SCCA's T3 class. And he's good, too. Last month, he took second place at the June sprints at Road America.
Fisher and the rest of the Chicagoland Volkswagen dealer group have been big supporters of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup and are sponsoring the #17 car of Timmy Megenbier, which carries the ChicagolandVW.com sponsorship banner. Fisher believes that this series provides a great connection with consumers to display the real-world capabilities of the Jetta TDI.
"Volkswagen's TDI engine is a great solution to our fuel economy challenges, and putting the Jetta TDI on the race track where the cars are still getting great mileage really helps us drive that point home with consumers," Fisher said. "It also proves the performance capabilities of the car. It's a fun car to drive, and if it's good enough for the race track, then it's good enough to want to put in your garage."
Megenbier gives his Jetta street car a makeover
Melrose Park's Timmy Megenbier takes his position as a Jetta TDI Cup driver very seriously. So, seriously that he gave his personal car, a 2007 Jetta GLI, a makeover to replicate his #17 ChicagolandVW.com race car. In addition to the decals that perfectly match the ones found on his racecar, Megenbier and his father also lowered the car, modified the suspension and installed new brakes and wheels so that a casual observer would definitely mistake his Jetta GLI for the one found at the race track.
"I have a close relationship with the Chicago area Volkswagen dealers, and I do a lot of promotional appearances for them. So, my dad and I decided that it would be fun to modify my car so that we could take it to various appearances and events to promote the series," Megenbier said. "It definitely turns heads on the road, and people don't know it's not my racecar because it looks so close to the real thing. People are always asking questions about it, so it gives me a great opportunity to talk about my career and involvement in the Jetta TDI Cup."
The people want a racier Jetta - Jetta TDI Cup Edition
When the people said that they wanted to be able to purchase a Jetta that was styled like the Jetta TDI Cup race car, Volkswagen listened. The 2010 model year will mark the launch of the Jetta TDI Cup Edition of the popular model.
The similarities to the racecar will be evident at first glance. The Jetta TDI Cup edition features the front bumper, side skirts and rear valance that are on the racecars. However, the upgrades on the Jetta TDI Cup "Street" edition go beyond cosmetic with the addition of the brakes and sway bars found in the performance-oriented GLI sedan combined with a European sport tuned suspension. The car is powered by Volkswagen's powerful 2.0L clean diesel TDI producing 140 hp. and 236 lbs. ft. of readily available torque, mated to the six-speed DSG transmission.
The Jetta TDI Cup Edition model will have a limited production and be priced under $27,000.
Yes, racing can be green!
In the past, racing and environmentally-friendly cars haven't gone hand in hand. However, Volkswagen changed the game in 2008 with the introduction of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup, featuring the mostly-stock clean diesel Jetta TDI. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Jetta TDI at an economical 30 mpg City and 41 mpg Highway. Volkswagen went a step further to evaluate the real world fuel economy of the Jetta TDI. Leading third-party certifier, AMCI, tested the Jetta TDI and found it performed 24 percent better in real world conditions, achieving 38 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway.
The Jetta TDI's fuel efficiency combined with its environmentally friendly emissions rating have earned the model the Smart Way designation from the EPA. The EPA created the Smart Way program to help consumers identify the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicles available. In addition, the 2009 Jetta TDI clean diesel was recently named the 2009 "Green Car of the Year" by Green Car Journal.
Volkswagen creates 2010 series competitor qualifying programs
The prospect of becoming a professional racecar driver is a dream of many of North America's youth. However, the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup is helping to turn this dream into reality with a karting qualifier competition and an online racing season. Participants in both programs will compete for a fully funded ride for the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup season.
The karting qualifier competition will begin in July with six standalone karting events to be held at Boston's F1 Outdoor karting facility. The top ten finishers from each event will be selected to move on and compete in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Final Driver Selection Event in February 2010, which will determine the final 25-driver lineup for the 2010 season. The top-rated driver at the Final Driver Selection Event who competed in the karting qualifiers will be awarded their entire $45,000 season entry fee. Information on the karting qualifier events is available at www.volkswagenjettacup.com.
Volkswagen also recently announced the introduction of a forthcoming online racing season in conjunction with iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations. In September, the Jetta TDI Cup series car will join the list of racecars offered on iRacing.com, and iRacing will launch an online version of the series. Like with the karting events, iRacing.com Jetta TDI Cup series participants will be battling to earn their way into the 2010 driver selection event and compete for the chance to receive a fully funded ride in the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Jetta TDI Cup series driving the iRacing.com car.