Harris Hill Raceway - TNIA 5/10 Rundown (grab a drink and let's get sloppy...)


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
TOC - Rundown:
Post #1 - the important facts from 5/10's track night

Post #2 - everything NOT to do when preparing for a vacation, track day, wedding, or anything important. It's riveting and educational, and frankly, doesn't make me look too great.

Posts #3, #19-22 (2nd page) - absolutely EPIC photos of Stormy skirting some fast cars on track like a white Rabbit on bath salts.
Is it better than porn? Only if you love MQB-on-BMW action... 😈

Begin first post:
Well gents, I finally have a few minutes to throw up some incriminating, anecdotal info regarding the most recent SCCA Track Night event @ HHR from 5/10.

As usual, my experience was a little…”different”, but also infinitely illuminating and educational. We all know my posts can get longer than John Holmes, so I’m intentionally keeping this one under 2 pages (MS Word). Whatever I can fit…goes to print.



My first TNIA event was 3/15. Me getting to race on track was a true miracle (wasn't supposed to happen), and I’d never had the GTI on track before.
We both got smacked around a bit. Investigate that adventure here at your leisure:

The NY Times called my 3/15 Cindarella Story “a riveting, heart-stopping thrill ride to the very end.”

They said the same for 1994’s Speed with Keanu Reeves, but I digress… 👌 🙃



Let’s start with the track, how it delights and surprises its guests like a moving castle:

HHR, while short on straightaways, has a lot of surface changes and a few off-camber corners that realllly challenge a car and its driver.

The back “straight” between turns 5 and 7 is choppier than the editing on a Marvel movie. Packing the road surface of a Bosnian minefield, it does everything possible to upset the car as you’re flying through at 90+ before squeezing the fat pedal to set yourself up for turn 7: a hard, 180* right hander that shifts all the weight and inertia of the car to the two driver side tires.

If you’re gonna lift some inside tires like the Stig or Clarkson, you get to do it in Turn 7.

That back part of the track is truly a love-hate deal. In my case, I hated it so much that I went out and bought myself some high quality dampers to soak up the shotgun blast posing as asphalt.

People mess up turns 5 and 7. A lot. Pick the right line and you can get on power earlier than the guy riding your bumper to rocket into the next corner. Choose wrong and you get to mow some grass for Rod & the HHR track owners, while understeering in a squealing-pig display of novice shame and tire shriek.

"Just 2 more laps! I've almost got it..."


In general, I needed more brake, more camber, and more cowbell for HHR at the 3/15 event. My driving was also sloppy enough that I’m amazed @MonkeyMD still talks to me… 🙈

There’s also a fella named Graham in our group who is, frankly, really effing good. His M235 is mostly stock with Michelin PS4S tires, stock wheels, and a fistful of #DriverMod.

Quiet, reserved, and always purposeful, he wiped the floor with me and half the Intermediate group on 3/15, so I was hellbent on being more competitive when I came out to the 5/10 event. Fewer point-bys or DIE TRYING!!!

The dude also inspired me a bit, if we’re honest. He turned that 3500lb Bimmer into an apex-slaying cruise missile and ran a 1:32 on 3/15. With almost zero drama the whole lap. So what might be possible in my FWD V-Dub?

Sooooo…I modded up. I wanted all of Storm’s major weaknesses addressed for the 5/10 event without wasting a single dollar. FedEx and UPS packages began pouring in late-March, almost ALL of their contents snagged at insanely low, buy-me-now prices:

-H&R 28mm front sway bar ($290 on sale)

-Eurosport street camber mounts ($180 normal pricing)

-Bilstein B8 dampers (on sale – woot! $586 + tax)

-Fresh strut bearings from VW (mine were fine, this is preventative: $39 x2)

-Hawk HPS 5.0 brake pads all around ($192 total, on sale)

-Unitronic Intercooler ($550 local, new in box)

-Pentosin Super DOT-4 (shop stock)

...The IATs and engine power would now be tamed.
...The insane body roll would be minimized.
...The front tires could tuck and clear the front fenders in hard corners.
...The brakes would finally have BMW-esque grab and pull.
...And the dampers would finally be, well, properly German.

HHR is [for me] one continuous turn that explores grip and steering angles. I found myself unable to use throttle half the time, instead using momentum and trying to carry as much speed around corners while finding better lines each successive lap. These cars tuck in nicely at low-throttle… Go full-ham and the front tires might fight before they bite.


The new parts I’ve installed this year, thus far, are amazing. You couldn’t ask for a more tastefully executed chassis setup for about $1k. Corners where I had to do ~40mph before, I was doing 45-50 and holding like a boss.


-The 28mm FSB (+25mm RSB from 2020) keeps the body roll in check 100% of the time and acts like a stiffer set of coil springs when you turn the wheel.

(Full write-up here):

-The increased front camber from the springs and strut mounts gives me front-end grip for days and keeps my tires happy.

-The Bilsteins are damn-near magical compared to the stock Sachs twin tubes. All of my body motions are controlled and composed. Squat and nose dive are almost non-existent.

...All told, this $33k escape hatch now feels like a $75k BMW or 911 in terms of chassis dynamics. And that is high praise to all 3 pedigrees. Come ride with me down LCR if you don’t believe me. Hustling this car down a curvy road is like eating dark chocolate with sea salt: complex, rewarding, and never boring.

Everything I’ve done works together harmoniously as a system, and sends happy tingles up your spine when you nail a line and power out of an apex in 3rd gear under full-torque send. The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” starts jamming in your frontal lobe and you bury your foot until the next braking zone, wishing you had just a little more runway for speed...

My best time 5/10 that I actually captured was a 1:38.49 in the 2nd session. But for my 3rd session, I changed the soundtrack in the car, relaxed my sphincter to calm, and I was REALLY cooking and booking in Storm. So I wouldn’t be surprised if I shaved 1.5-2 seconds during one of those runs. Not exaggerating.

Any who, we’re @ 2-pages, and I’m a man of my word. Check out the 2nd post for a behind-the-scenes look @ the s**t show preceding 5/10’s event…


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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Behind the Scenes - Blunders, outtakes, and how this almost didn't happen

Obviously I can wax poetic for days about this platform (and my car) the way Lord Byron penned his women. Let’s switch gears and recap how close I cut it this time. Twice. In the same day.

It’s an excellent learning experience to warn others what NOT to do...

Anytime you find me preparing for a big event, vacation, or track day, you can bank that I’m cramming right up until it’s time to leave. It’s a character fault, and I own it.

Often it takes a big event to motivate me to actually do an important install or upgrade. Lemme know if you can relate.

A certain red customer car ran wayyyyy over for time on a major repair in late April. An intense, 25-hr job hit 35+ and needed lots of patience & finesse to deliver in early May.

That evil 2004 Holden product ate into the 4/28 weekend that I’d earmarked for Stormy’s installs. Specifically her new dampers and brakes. FML. Just FML…

This meant that against all hopes, efforts and planning, I would once again be modding up the car just days before a big event. Don’t do this unless you hate yourself and want to destroy some sleep cycles. It kills any fun or enjoyment of the modding process.

A similar thing happened back in early April: the Eurosport camber mounts from hell ran way over and had issues, and I had to forfeit that month’s Track Night event completely. I was crushed and disappointed in myself.

My 5-yr old son was faultless and supportive that fateful day:

“It’s OK, Dad. We don’t have to race Stormy today. Let’s just go watch our friends and be together.”

POW! Right in the ‘feels. Kid gets me every time… Someone pass me a Kleenex.

We ended up just driving down and spectating for the last half of the April race, leaving poor Storm torn apart on jackstands.

Back to May – let’s go to WAR!

I worked long days and all-nighters on the GTI from 5/7-5/9. I had a close friend come over and help me the night of 5/8. He ended up staying over until 5/10 to see this project through. What a f***ing trooper!

His moral support and tool-fetching were indispensable, as was having him to hold the beefy Bilsteins in place while I operated the spring compressors. He’d already proven himself back in late March on the FSB install (which also turned into a late nighter), so having him with me for this track prep was a nice comfort.

I remember the last work night of 5/9 was slow-going, but exciting. There was an electricity in the air of, “are we gonna pull this off? How good is the car gonna drive after the upgrades? Do you think you’ll match Graham’s time of 1:32 at HHR…”

And also… “how many hours of sleep can we sneak in before the race? Because it feels like we’re dying from the inside out...”

PREPPED, but only sort of...

Before Ryan arrived 5/8, I had the rear Bilsteins on Storm, the rear bumpstops trimmed 20mm, and the rear brakes nearly finished except for the brake flush.

The front struts, of course, took some time and patience to swap. The knuckles weren't cooperating with the new struts, even with the spreader tool I've used a dozen times now.

As the night rolled on, we lost steam and moved progressively slower. Like hiking with a loaded rucksack through heavy mud. Uphill. In Alaska. With a full bladder… #trudge

The B8s are (intentionally, by design) shorter than the stockers by a full inch, which meant the shorter lowering springs do in fact need to be compressed to install. It also means they have a good 1.25-1.5” of preload on them compared to the stock Sachs damper configuration with the same H&R springs. This should be interesting…

Extra time was required to fit the bulky spring compressor tools around them AND avoid contact/damage to the fresh suspension parts from the compressor rods. It was a PITA. Just gonna say it. And I’ve done this for decades on other cars.

At one point (around 5am on 5/10) we came inside for a break – half-awake, half delirious, and heated up some leftover food, which we ate in near-silence while struggling to hold our heads up. It was like something from a war novel.

We quite literally dragged our @$$es back out into the shop at 5:40am to finish the last leg of the job. All that was left was verifying bolt torque under compression (suspension), and bleeding 2 corners of the brakes. But you’d think we were climbing down to Everest base camp in late November. What a pain just to move forward!

I stuck Ryan in the car to operate the brakes and confirm pedal firmness, and he struggled to stay awake in Storm’s comfy captain’s chair. I finished out the work and put Storm on the ground, likely with Ryan still in the car. 😏 🙃

This is really happening…


At 7:15am that famous Wednesday morning, we had the car back on the ground, and we could hardly see or think straight. We were filthy, exhausted, and had to postpone our initial test-drive.

“It’ll be good."

"Nay. GREAT! Let’s shower and sleep…”

-Brakes were done.

-Hawk HPS 5.0 pads installed, rotors cleaned & prepped.

-Fluid flushed.

-Pedal harder than Pinocchio’s erection.

-Bilstein B8s looking more fine than a stack of unpaid parking tickets.

-Every fastener double-verified for torque.


"I shall wish thee a speedy recovery..."

We both showered and died. HARD. I think I was on my mattress at 9am, more comatose than Robert DeNiro’s character in Awakenings.

I set my alarm for 11:30am. And I never heard a damn thing.

At half past noon, Ryan was opening my door saying “hey man, we need to get moving!”

There was zero alcohol involved, but that feeling of delirium from sleep-dep was on par with the worst hangover.

My eyes were dry and blurry, my mouth was parched, my whole body was beat to hell and exhausted from the week of long repairs on multiple cars. And I had to rally, right there if we were gonna make the track day. Otherwise everything we’d sacrificed was for nothing.

Oh yeah, also that one other problem I didn’t share with you…we hadn’t done the feckin’ alignment yet.

You could look at the front of the car and see it was toed out like a 4’ woman with busted knees. I had to reset the toe angle. And I had 15-minutes to do it.

I remember speed-washing the car around 2pm, doing a 30-minute hand-wash job in 9 minutes flat. Even a meth addict would have been impressed with the speed and intensity. It was frantic. I got all the grime off and blow-dried her with the HD leaf blower.

“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do…”

I pulled the car back into the shop, oriented and locked the wheel, raised her up and compressed the control arms fully. Both sides needed to be adjusted for toe. The left front was easily 3* out of spec. The right ~1*. I dialed it in with Ryan assisting.

(24mm wrench, 15mm wrench, and 23mm wrench, if you ever need to do this)

I dialed the toe in as close to 0* as I could without a proper alignment rack, but on a lowered car with lots of camber, this was much harder to do by sight than other applications I’ve done.

I once did the GTO’s rear alignment at the track, and dialed it to 0* toe just by sight and being meticulous. But this was a rushed deal on Stormy.

“Get it as close as you can and send it.” And send we did…

You’re not gonna make it. You've already lost…


With the car packed full of our essential supplies, emergency tools, and enough water to hitchhike to El Paso, we hit the 130 tollway as quick as we could reach it, and hauled @$$ down to San Marcos, which was well over an hour away.

We were also an hour late leaving…

This was bad. Really bad. We’d gotten the car ready, but we might miss the actual cutoff to actually race.

This meant I had to once again call upon the amazing Courtney Rivers, my SCCA track angel…goddess among mortals, and notify her we would be cutting it super close. She told me as long as I could get there for the 4pm driver’s meeting, I was safe.

But I had to make that meeting or I would be disqualified for the day. Understood.

It was 2:53pm when we finished that call, and I was still in Round Rock, fighting mouth breathers in traffic.

Now fast forward the DVD. All you need to know is that the Mk7 GTI, on Bilsteins, with EQT software, is a safe and highly motivated machine.

And 130 has great visibility for a mile at a time.

And we were not going to miss this event on account of driving too slowly...

We made it to HHR’s gates at 3:48pm and drove right into the pits where the intermediate group was staged.

Déjà vu of 3/15’s track night: we were frantically unpacking the car like bunch of moonshiners about to get raided by the po-po.

Adam, Melissa, and her best friend Jenny were all on scene already. They handled the car gear and my kiddos like a professional pit crew, and I rushed to the driver’s meeting.

With only minutes to spare, I made it. I was one of the very first to the meeting, and no one else knew the miracle we'd just lived.

~3.5hrs sleep, and track day…was f**kin’ happening!!!!!

(ed. - Now do you know why I feel so indebted to the people in the 5/10 photos?!!!)
❤️ 👏 💪 🍻 🙏
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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Photo dump coming.


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Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX


Breaking my own damned rules about summertime racing. PRAY it is a windy, cool day on 6/7!


This is happening. I blame my new coach, @MonkeyMD 😎 😏 🏎

Car is just missing the intercooler, which will go in the weekend of 5/26. After that it’s chasing numbers and picking smart lines:

1:32 on a best lap. 1:33-1:34 on the others.



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Autocross Champion
Guess you got the last spot!

Are you going to get the new tires by then?

Sooooooo.....ECR next 🤣🤣


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
Guess you got the last spot!

Are you going to get the new tires by then?

Sooooooo.....ECR next 🤣🤣
Yes to tires, mostly because the $110 promotion to save money expires end of May. 💵 (Michelin rebate)

I suspect Eagle’s Canyon would destroy my brakes…(and my wallet) 👀 🏎


Autocross Champion
Awesome. Can't wait. We should swap cars for a session. Then again I've destroyed enough of other people's cars lol


Autocross Champion
SCCA is running the shorter config of ECR in June that cuts out the big back straight, should be a little kinder on the brakes.
Didn't know they had another configuration. Did they just add that?


Go Kart Champion
MK7.5 R
Didn't know they had another configuration. Did they just add that?
Think it’s been an option for a while, just rarely see it run. It takes the cut through after turn 4 so instead of going right and climbing up turn 5 you have a fast left hander that spits you out at the exit of 12 heading into 13.

Decent in car video that shows the layout:
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Autocross Champion
Think it’s been an option for a while, just rarely see it run. It takes the cut through after turn 4 so instead of going right and climbing up turn 5 you have a fast left hander that spits you out at the exit of 12 heading into 13.

Decent in car video that shows the layout:

Funny I never even paid attention to that.

That guy is hauling. Holy cow


Go Kart Champion
MK7.5 R
Funny I never even paid attention to that.

That guy is hauling. Holy cow
Yeah, probably going to look slow motion in comparison when I’m in a 1000lbs heavier hatchback on similar width tires. Also, that guy is a super quick driver in his MR2 and an S2000 I’ve seen him bring.


Drag Racing Champion
Austin, TX
SCCA is running the shorter config of ECR in June that cuts out the big back straight, should be a little kinder on the brakes.
I wish you hadn't told me this... 😳 😖 😩 😆

That is genuinely awesome. I know I have already spent my mod and track budget for the year, but the heroine-vein dynamic of affordable track days is too good to pass up for June 7.

I also like that there were multiple Mk6 and 7 cars at the last event 4/12 and 5/10.


Autocross Champion
Probably one of the most temperature friendly tracks. You should come on June 7th. Would be cool to see how the new R does & you already have the RS4