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