Do tuners know bet­ter?

Tweaked Audi R8 driven


Ten or 20 years ago, it was Subaru Im­prezas and Mit­subishi Evos. For the past decade or so, it has been the Nis­san GT-R. So where will the UK tun­ing scene go next? Ac­cord­ing to pow­er­train spe­cial­ist Ricky El­der, Euro­pean su­per­cars are set to be the next big thing. “Over the last two years, I’ve re­ally felt it change,” says El­der, founder of Swin­don-based RE Per­for­mance. “The GT-R has been the king of the UK tun­ing scene for a long time, but now we’re start­ing to see the rise of the su­per­car – Audi R8s, Lam­borgh­i­nis, Mclarens and even Fer­raris.”

In North Amer­ica, mod­i­fiers have been switched on to su­per­cars for a long time al­ready and, ac­cord­ing to El­der, the UK is ready to fol­low suit. “US com­pa­nies like Dal­las Per­for­mance and Un­der­ground take Euro­pean su­per­cars and turn them into the fastest cars in the world, some de­vel­op­ing 2000bhp. Those cars are ter­ri­fy­ing. In the UK, we’re ter­ri­fied of void­ing our war­ranties, so we don’t have a tun­ing scene like they do, but it’s get­ting there.”

As R8s, Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lar­dos and Hu­racáns slip out of their man­u­fac­turer war­ranty pe­ri­ods and drop in value, a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are be­gin­ning to ex­plore their tun­ing po­ten­tial. The move­ment is be­ing driven by those who have

owned highly tuned GT-RS and now want to switch into some­thing more ex­otic. “Lots of guys are get­ting out of tuned GT-RS, buy­ing real su­per­cars and find­ing them dog slow, be­cause they’re used to 900bhp,” says El­der.

R8s are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar, not least be­cause they’re rel­a­tively com­mon and ear­lier V8 mod­els can now be picked up for around £40,000. And in the case of the V10 ver­sions, non-plus mod­els can be up­rated to Plus power out­puts with a sim­ple remap. They’re ex­actly the same en­gines, af­ter all.

And if you want re­ally big power? Twin-tur­bocharg­ing is the way to go. El­der, who worked as a tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist for the Volk­swa­gen Group for eight years be­fore start­ing RE Per­for­mance 18 months ago, is quickly es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a lead­ing author­ity on turbo up­grades for R8s and Lam­borgh­i­nis.

He says: “Those en­gines will do 850bhp with just a twin-turbo kit and not much else – stock en­gine, clutch, gear­box and elec­tron­ics. You’re talk­ing £25,000, plus the donor car. That’s hypercar per­for­mance for a tenth of the price.

“We’ve just built an R8 GT, which was a £70,000 bill. That had a re­built gear­box and en­gine with af­ter­mar­ket rods and pistons, head work and so on. The owner wants 1400bhp so that’s what we’ve built the car to do.

“I think we’re go­ing to get a big Mclaren wave. I’m see­ing more and more as they drift out of war­ranty. They’re very tun­able be­cause they’re al­ready tur­bocharged. They are im­mensely fast and we can make them faster.

“We also did a 488 GTB the other week. Fer­rari ECUS are so easy to get into. You can tune them with an aba­cus and a bit of tin foil. The elec­tron­ics aren’t pro­tected like on other brands. Just give the ECU a tickle and all of a sud­den you’ve got horse­power.”

As fas­ci­nat­ing as it all sounds, I’m left with a num­ber of ques­tions. For one thing, I can’t help but won­der why you’d take an R8 – one of the last re­main­ing nor­mally as­pi­rated su­per­cars – and tur­bocharge it. But mostly, I just want to know what on earth a 900bhp R8 V10 feels like. Hap­pily, El­der’s first-gen­er­a­tion demo car is warmed up and ready for a test drive.

“It’s got a stock en­gine, stock clutch, stock fuel sys­tem and so on,” El­der says. “It’s only run­ning 0.4 bar of boost. I wanted to show what we can achieve with just a twin-turbo con­ver­sion and with­out hav­ing to spend an­other £50,000 on re­build­ing the en­gine and trans­mis­sion. Even so, the car is bloody in­tim­i­dat­ing!”

Driv­ing through the out­skirts of Swin­don, it’s only the com­pletely dis­torted sound­track that gives away this car’s big power up­grade – the bassy, noisy idle and the whooshes and hisses as boost is built up and dumped. Oth­er­wise, though, the car is ev­ery bit as civilised as a fac­to­ryspec­i­fi­ca­tion R8.

That all changes when we find some clear coun­try roads. I ten­ta­tively prod the throttle pedal in one of the higher gears first, just to ease my­self in. Even­tu­ally, I find the courage to shift down to sec­ond gear and press the ac­cel­er­a­tor all the way to the floor. Al­most im­me­di­ately, I lift right off again. The surge of ac­cel­er­a­tion through the mid-range is so in­tense that my un­think­ing in­stinct is to make it stop.

In third gear, the car ac­cel­er­ates with a crazed, un­re­lent­ing force, fir­ing it­self to­wards the hori­zon like a stone flung from a sling­shot. Only once in a solid half day of driv­ing did I man­age to keep my foot f lat in

Prosser finds it hard to keep the tuned R8’s throttle pinned

El­der tells our man about a 1400bhp R8

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