Van­tas­tic Caddy is a win­ner

Never mind the speedy Po­los, Sciroc­cos and Golf GTis. This van is a Volk­swa­gen race apart, writes GRA­HAM SMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

AHUM­BLE VW Caddy van is caus­ing a stir in Bri­tish racing cir­cles as it takes the fight up to some of the hottest hatches to ever hit the track in the Volk­swa­gen Racing Cup.

The bat­tle scars down the sides of the Caddy bear wit­ness to the hard­won cred­i­bil­ity of the hot lit­tle van in this year’s 14-race se­ries.

When it first ap­peared it was dis­missed as a cu­rios­ity that couldn’t pos­si­bly com­pete against Golf GTis, Po­los and Sciroc­cos, but that all changed when it be­gan to make its way to­wards the pointy end of the field. Now that it’s in the mix for the race win, ev­ery time it hits the track it’s taken very se­ri­ously. It’s noth­ing for it to be reg­u­larly bashed and crashed from pil­lar to post.

The Volk­swa­gen Racing Cup be­gan eight years ago and to­day forms a sup­port se­ries for the Bri­tish For­mula Three Cham­pi­onship.

It’s open to any model VW and is con­trolled by a power-to-weight for­mula. Most en­tries are per­for­mance VWs such as Golf GTis, Po­los, Bee­tles, Bo­ras and Sciroc­cos, along with the sin­gle Caddy van.

The racing Caddy is sup­ported by VW Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles in the UK, a sort of fac­tory en­try to pro­mote the Caddy.

Its reg­u­lar driver in the se­ries is Peter Wy­hinny, once head of VW Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles in the UK be­fore mov­ing on to lead the Bri­tish Seat op­er­a­tion.

‘‘The whole idea of get­ting in­volved was to pro­mote the Caddy when it was re­leased and to pro­mote the diesel en­gine,’’ he says. ‘‘More re­cently we have changed the liv­ery and used it to pro­mote our Sport­line spe­cial mod­els.’’

Sport­line is a range of dressed-up vans based on the T5 Trans­porter and Caddy that takes a reg­u­lar van to a new level of com­fort, con­ve­nience and sporti­ness with the ad­di­tion of a range of ac­ces­sories such as al­loy wheels, chrome grilles, leather trim and en­hanced sound sys­tems.

The racing Caddy has none of th­ese; it’s a stripped-back, raw and rau­cous racer built to go fast.

When it first hit the track it was a mere cu­rios­ity dither­ing in the mid­dle of the pack, or worse. But a cou­ple of third places and a re­cent sec­ond have caused the doubters to give it, and Wy­hinny, a bit more re­spect.

The Caddy’s body­work ap­pears stock, but it’s been stripped of ev­ery­thing not needed on the track and the en­gine has been tweaked for max­i­mum, re­li­able per­for­mance.

It has a 2.0-litre TDi tur­bod­iesel en­gine, an op­tion in Europe but not yet here, which now puts out about 195kW and 512Nm thanks to a larger tur­bocharger, larger ca­pac­ity in­ter­cooler, high-flow in­jec­tors, free-flow in­take fil­ter, sports ex­haust and per­for­mance chip in the com­puter.

The power is chan­nelled through a heavy-duty per­for­mance clutch, sixspeed man­ual gear­box and a com­pe­ti­tion diff to the front wheels.

The Caddy chas­sis that pro­vided a sound plat­form for the racing van has been ex­ten­sively tweaked to han­dle as well as the reg­u­lar raceprepped per­for­mance sedans.

Spe­cial coil-over shocks are em­ployed at the front; the rear is sim­i­lar to what you might find un­der a ral­lyprepped Es­cort with a pan­hard bar and coil-overs.

Al­con disc brakes on the front com­bine with stan­dard rear discs to give the 1356kg Caddy some se­ri­ous stop­ping power.

Medium com­pound Hankook slicks are wrapped around 18-inch BBS al­loys on race days.

When given its head, as I was able to do at the Brunt­ingth­orpe air­field cir­cuit in the English Mid­lands, the lit­tle van showed plenty of zip un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion with a top speed about 240km/h.

‘‘I has the aero­dy­nam­ics of a brick,’’ Wy­hinny says.

‘‘It suf­fers on fast tracks with long straights, but it’s great on tight and twist­ing cir­cuits.’’

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