Ger­man tuners par ex­cel­lence, FVD Brom­bacher, turn up the boost on the 991 GTS

911 Porsche World - - This Month - Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy: Antony Fraser

Few coun­try roads ar­eas sin­u­ous as the 6- mile run up FreiburgSch au ins land hill climb and, by co in­ci­dence, this up hill hel­terskel­ter is on the doorstep of Porsche parts pur­vey­ors FVD Brom­bacher. So, as the lo­ca­tion to snap ’n’ sam­ple their lat­est 991 GTS show­piece, it’s a no-brainer

We’ve come to the glo­ri­ous Black For­est re­gion to visit old friends FVD Brom­bacher – in fact, young friends would be more apt as we’re greeted by the next gen­er­a­tion of the Brom­bacher fam­ily, Franziska, Max and Theo, who are han­dling day-to-day busi­ness and tech whilst their fa­ther Willy tans in Florida. In amongst a cross-sec­tion of Porsches – 997, 968, 964, 993, 3.2 Car­rera – I’m in the work­shop chat­ting with the three sib­lings plus FVD Brom­bacher sales man­ager Alex BenMah­moud. From one to an­other they tell me var­i­ously about the GTS and on­go­ing FVD Brom­bacher projects.

Hospi­tal­i­ties to one side for a mo­ment, we fo­cus on the firm’s brand-new 991 GTS show car. The parts spe­cial­ists and com­po­nents sup­pli­ers have al­ways had a project car on the back burner to as­sess the com­po­nents they sell and demon­strate their tun­ing prow­ess – putting their money where their mouth is, in fact – and we’ve fea­tured sev­eral over the past few years. The lat­est ex-fac­tory GTS is ca­pa­ble of 194mph thanks to its 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six, while the FVD Brom­bacher car is tuned with up­rated soft­ware and mod­i­fied ex­haust, hik­ing the model’s nor­mal out­put from 450bhp to 540bhp on the dyno. Fin­ished in Achat Grey Metal­lic, picked out with lemon yel­low flashes on the front lid, roof, side-skirts and en­gine lid, the GTS runs cen­tre-lock BBS wheels whose rims are also picked out in match­ing yel­low. Ex­ter­nal graph­ics in­clude a yel­low fvd logo and Brom­bacher side-stripes on the doors. Car­bon leather seats dom­i­nate the cabin, with spe­cial stitch­ing high­light­ing the leather up­hol­stery.

As well as a me­chan­i­cal test bed for eval­u­at­ing prod­ucts they’d hap­pily en­dorse and of­fer for sale, FVD Brom­bacher are in the process of try­ing out the Nankang tyre brand, not a make we’d nor­mally as­so­ciate with high-per­for­mance sports cars. To be per­fectly hon­est, till now it had sim­ply never booted up on my rub­ber radar, fo­cused as I cur­rently am on Vre­desteins and Con­ti­nen­tals. This is not in­tended to be a tyre re­view, nor a eu­logy of any par­tic­u­lar brand; save to say that FVD Brom­bacher is might­ily im­pressed with Nankang’s AR-1 on-road semi-slick, and al­though it is not Porsche ap­proved due to the lack of an N-rat­ing,

they feel it is an eco­nom­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to the brands that most of us con­ven­tion­ally fit on our Porsches. Their eval­u­a­tion will con­tinue for a while yet, with on-track ex­cur­sions planned be­cause, as Max ex­plains, ‘they’re not con­ven­tional street tyres, as much of the tread sur­face is slick. You do get a lot of tyre noise on the road, so for long dis­tance driv­ers we would prob­a­bly not rec­om­mend them. But my first im­pres­sion is that it’s like glue on track and on street, but it’s noisy so we have a plus and a mi­nus at the mo­ment.’ Once they are happy with them they’ll add an ap­pro­pri­ate wheel and tyre pack­age to their web stock­list in­ven­tory. ‘More cus­tomers are now us­ing their cars on week­ends for track­days, and it makes sense to of­fer a cheap pos­si­bil­ity for track­days.’ It’s likely to be about €400–€500 per 20in rim. ‘We want to be sure this com­bi­na­tion works on this car be­cause it’s not nor­mal for us to as­so­ciate with an econ­omy brand like Nankang, so it’s a project, and if we’re happy with it, it’s a new way for Porsche own­ers to have fun on track for less money.’ So far so good, then: ‘In a track sit­u­a­tion these tyres are re­tain­ing their tem­per­a­ture and not ex­ceed­ing max­i­mum work­ing tem­per­a­ture, and not grain­ing, and al­though they may have a 30 per cent shorter work­ing life com­pared with Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cups, they are less than half the price. And most of the track­day guys de­stroy their tyres in just one day. De­pends how you drive, of course: if you’re a lit­tle bit more con­ser­va­tive they’ll last longer, but driv­ing com­pet­i­tively they will be fin­ished in a day.’

Apart from last year’s out­ra­geous 997 Turbo Cabri­o­let, which was wilder than any­thing dreamed up by Stuttgart’s bling­mer­chants, FVD Brom­bacher are gen­er­ally not that ex­trav­a­gant in terms of vis­ual em­bel­lish­ments. But, as far as fresh aero parts go for the GTS, it al­ready has the side skirts mounted on its sills, which are more than 2cm wider than the orig­i­nal ones, while the front split­ter, dif­fuser and rear spoiler Gur­ney flap are yet to be ap­plied. The light strip span­ning the rear of the car is nor­mally unique to the four-wheel drive Car­rera 4S, but FVD Brom­bacher think it looks great so they’ve in­stalled it on their GTS. The aero­dy­namic pro­fil­ing is also a work in progress. ‘We have two ver­sions of our project car’s body­work re­vi­sions,’ re­veals Franziska, in­di­cat­ing the blue 991 Turbo on the fore­court, com­plete with split­ter, sill ex­ten­sions, dif­fuser and ex­tended rear wing. ‘The aero­dy­namic pack­age on that is the old­style ver­sion, and we’re de­vel­op­ing the young fash­ion ver­sion on the GTS, which is Max’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion. So, there’s a lit­tle bit of com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Max and Alex while they cre­ate two dif­fer­ent kinds of look on the car. Max is more in­clined to­wards a big wing area with a big spoiler up front and flaps on the side, more like a rac­ing car, while Alex’s ver­sion is more like a 993 RS without such big wings. So, there will be two vir­tu­ally dif­fer­ent cars in the end, the less dra­matic RS style or GT3 Cup style with big­ger aero.’ It’s not just about the look: the aero­dy­namic ad­di­tions are checked in the wind tun­nel to ver­ify their ef­fi­cacy. It will also be pos­si­ble for cus­tomers to com­bine el­e­ments of the two ‘looks’, be­cause all the parts are pro­duced by the same supplier, Mosham­mer who’re based in Berlin. ‘We were im­pressed by the parts and the mount­ings we re­ceived from them, and they are easy to fit, you don’t have to cut or glue be­cause you’re only mount­ing on the orig­i­nal ex­ist­ing mount­ing points. We like that, be­cause we can send the parts all around the world and we don’t need to ex­plain to some­body in Hong Kong how to mount the part be­cause it’s ob­vi­ous and straight­for­ward.’

The me­chan­i­cal em­bel­lish­ments are equally ev­i­dent – at least when the en­gine’s fired up – by virtue of the mod­i­fied ex­haust sys­tem. The con­ver­sion starts by in­cor­po­rat­ing a 200-cell HD con­verted stain­less-steel sports cat­alytic con­verter (that’s 200 cells per square inch). ‘That’s the new­est gen­er­a­tion of the sport cat­alytic con­verter,’ says Max, ‘and it’s a re­ally ex­pen­sive thing be­cause there’s a lot of cladding in­side, and one of these is around €400 even be­fore we get into the ex­haust sys­tem. We’ve made ev­ery­thing a lit­tle bit sportier, a lit­tle bit more ag­gres­sive. And this is some­thing that the cus­tomer can al­ready buy, (he shows me the part num­ber), but it is the first time that the com­plete sys­tem in­clud­ing soft­ware and all the other mod­i­fi­ca­tions is mounted on one car, so we have to test it to prove our ini­tial horse­power and torque gains.’ It goes on a dyno be­fore and af­ter. ‘The sound is in­cred­i­ble. It is loud – wake the neigh­bours loud – like a race car, though it is

“ We’ve made ev­ery­thing a lit­tle bit sportier, a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive ”

dimmed by the press of the Sport but­ton, and this is our first ex­pe­ri­ence with this range and vol­ume of sound which this sys­tem pro­duces, so we are ex­cited about that.’

The FVD Brom­bacher crew reckon their GTS’S 3.0-litre en­gine had a head start in the power-hike stakes, be­ing some 70bhp bet­ter off than the quoted stan­dard fig­ure out of the box. ‘We were lucky that we had a car with a lit­tle bit more power than it should have had as stan­dard, so we tuned it to 70bhp on top of “the ex­ist­ing power. So that’s 540bhp at 6500rpm, and the torque fig­ure is 480lb ft at 4000rpm, which is con­ser­va­tive, and we’ve al­ready pulled back be­cause we felt we had too much for a rear-wheel drive car. We’ve mostly achieved that in­crease in power by remap­ping the ECU. It’s a nice power curve; it low­ers at the end so it’s man­age­able, it’s not like its it jumps at you, and it’s good to drive.’

By fo­cus­ing on the 991 GTS as well as the 991 Turbo, FVD Brom­bacher is on top of the game. ‘It’s a lit­tle bit more com­plex to tune a nor­mally as­pi­rated car, and now ev­ery 911 has a turbo of course, that makes it eas­ier to ad­just the boost pres­sure. It’s a whole lot of power that you need to change, and to match that so the car feels nat­u­ral and not too ex­cited, and es­pe­cially that you don’t risk some­thing with the en­gine. Our tar­get is to make it stronger, more re­li­able and a daily drive car. The best so­lu­tion would be to have a rac­ing car at the push of a but­ton, and that’s not pos­si­ble, but we’re go­ing in this di­rec­tion, and that’s only the start. It’s a project car, and we’re de­vel­op­ing parts for it that we can sell later on.’

Talk­ing of parts, which is FVD Brom­bacher’s stock-in-trade, we do the guided tour. In the year since we last vis­ited plenty has changed. There’s been a lot of ex­pan­sion, and al­though the work­shop and IT de­part­ments haven’t changed, the re­cep­tion has been reshuf­fled, but, more fun­da­men­tally, the pur­chas­ing of­fice, stores and dis­patch are now around the cor­ner in a dif­fer­ent build­ing, with much greater ca­pac­ity all round. They’ve painted the 964 hoard­ing as well – what was Mint is now Yel­low. FVD Brom­bacher also sells a few cars, more as a side-line, and we no­tice a cou­ple of long-bon­net 911s and a trio of 996 Cabri­o­lets im­ported from the USA.

Time for an out­ing. I spend a bit of time con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting my ear tuned in to the dif­fer­ence be­tween the tyre noise and the ex­haust noise, be­cause at a cer­tain res­o­nance they’re pretty sim­i­lar. I al­ter­nate the GTS’S en­ergy mode switch from Nor­mal to Sport and Sport Plus, where the bub­bling noise abates, while the sus­pen­sion stiff­ens and the shift ac­tu­ates more quickly. I can have a comfy ride, a sporty drive or a track­day blast. ‘In sport mode it matches per­fectly

We had a car with a lit­tle bit more power than it should have ”

with our ex­haust,’ says Max, ‘be­cause, with the reg­u­lar ex­haust there wasn’t much of a dif­fer­ence in the dif­fer­ent modes. Now you can re­ally hear the dif­fer­ence when you change the mode.’

We mo­tor leisurely through Freiburg and head through the pros­per­ous sub­urb of Gün­ter­stal, where the climb starts at a to­tally in­nocu­ous spot 400m above sea level. There is a white mark­ing on the road in­di­cat­ing the start, but blink and you miss it. It’s like that at the top, too, with no ob­vi­ous fin­ish line, though the ad­ja­cent restau­rant is quite busy so I’m watch­ing out for ve­hi­cles at this point rather than sign­posts. Back in the day, FreiburgSchauins­land was one of the most spec­tac­u­lar hill­climbs on the Eu­ro­pean Hill­climb Cham­pi­onship cal­en­dar, and had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing one of the most dif­fi­cult, too. Com­pris­ing 127 cor­ners, it runs for nearly 12 km, sum­mit in ga tan al­ti­tude of 1200 min the Schauins­land highlands that, once you’re out of the trees, af­ford fab­u­lous views into val­leys and the dis­tant hills. To start with, the route is flanked by ma­ture beech trees and scrub, but af­ter a few cor­ners it climbs into a dense for­est of conifers, with sin­gle-sec­tion Armco bar­rier to one side and, more of­ten than not, rock face on the other. I have to say, these Nankangs are grip­ping might­ily im­pres­sively as I twirl the steer­ing wheel. I glimpse for­est tracks on some hair­pins, day­light on oth­ers, but the black­top is flanked by un­remit­ting green till it emerges dra­mat­i­cally at the Holzschläger Mat­tenKurve, where we pause to sur­vey the most glo­ri­ous view out over the sub-alpine pas­tures – and re­turn later to at­tend Die Kurve chalet restau­rant for lunch. This is but half dis­tance on the climb, where in its ’60s hey­day most of the 60,000 spec­ta­tors gath­ered in the grand­stands, long gone now, to catch a glimpse of the cars as they flashed by, one by one, be­fore duck­ing back into the forested turns for the fi­nal half-dozen kilo­me­tres.

Back in 1957, the new FIA Eu­ro­pean Hill­climb Cham­pi­onship fea­tured works teams from Porsche and Fer­rari with driv­ers of the cal­i­bre of Lu­dovico Scarfiotti and Edgar Barth. Al­though the cal­en­dar var­ied, Mont Ven­toux, Gais­berg and Freiburg-schauins­land were in­cluded ev­ery sea­son for 15 years. Porsche driv­ers wore the Sports Car cat­e­gory crown from 1958 to 1968, while in the Gran Turismo class, they an­nexed the GT ti­tle lit­er­ally ev­ery year from 1960 right up to 1980. Per­haps Freiburg-schauins­land’s most im­por­tant meet­ings were in 1963, ’64 and ’65, when the World Sports Car Cham­pi­onship in­cluded both ral­lies and hill­climbs, and Edgar Barth (Jür­gen’s fa­ther) was vic­to­ri­ous in ’63 and ’64, though in ’65 Lodovico Scarfiotti led Ger­hard Mit­ter home in the Fer­rari Dino 206P. In ’63 Barth, driv­ing a Porsche 718 RS, posted an aver­age speed of more than 100kph for the first time in the event’s his­tory, and in ’64 he won again in the 718 RS, tak­ing 6m 36.4s to cover the 11.2km, fol­lowed in 3rd place by Her­bie Müller in a 904/8. Be­tween ’57 and ’70, the list of Schauins­land win­ners is topped by Barth, with Jo Bon­nier, Scarfiotti, Heini Wal­ter, Ger­hard Mit­ter, Peter Schetty and Rolf

Stom­me­len also claim­ing the lau­rels for Porsche – and, just twice, Fer­rari. The fac­tory teams’ in­ter­est waned in the early 1970s, though Freiburg-schauins­land staged one fi­nal meet­ing in 1972 when the DRM (Deutsche Rennsport-meis­ter­schaft) vis­ited the hill­climb in its in­au­gu­ral year. The 139strong en­try fea­tured Rein­hold Jöst in a 908/03, though the win­ner was Han­sJoachim Stuck in a Köln 2600 Capri. Would we cut the mus­tard in a 991 GTS? Un­doubt­edly, though the he­roes of yesteryear wouldn’t have had to con­tend with cy­clists, hik­ers and bik­ers – who are banned on week­ends for their own good.

Af­ter lunch there’s more se­ri­ous pho­to­shoot­ing to be done, and shoot­ing means driv­ing. Schauins­land is an amaz­ing adrenalin rush as I sling-shot from one curve to the next, sweep­ing into the large, open ra­dius of the Holzschläger Mat­ten-kurve: there’s hardly a straight worth the name, just end­less bends of vary­ing de­grees of arc and apex, some­times open enough to see the exit, some­times that’s ob­scured by fo­liage. All the time at the back of my mind is the his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive – that the ti­tans of the sport once hur­tled up here, putting life and ma­chine on the line. There’s never a feel­ing that the GTS is go­ing to get away from me; I feel you can trust it all the time, it’s not go­ing to bite me mid-turn. Maybe I lose a lit­tle in the way of emo­tion in a car that’s so com­pe­tent; imag­ine how raw the ex­pe­ri­ence would be in a short-wheel­base 911! Then I would be liv­ing more lit­er­ally on the edge.

Go­ing quickly, FVD Brom­bacher’s GTS is a com­bi­na­tion of driver in­tu­ition and co­or­di­nated con­trols. Steer­ing is im­pec­ca­ble, and from bend to bend I aim it pre­cisely where I want it to go and it com­plies with no drama. There’s the om­nipresent pop­ping and bang­ing on the over-run, and the throt­tle re­sponse when I press down and the tur­bos come in is in­stan­ta­neous with that sat­is­fy­ing surge for­ward. No need for trep­i­da­tion about grip: these Nankang semi-slicks re­ally do do the busi­ness, heat­ing up and hold­ing their tem­per­a­ture well, con­sid­er­ing this is a ‘B’ road, at a rel­a­tively high al­ti­tude, where it’s cold but sunny. They re­ally do have a lot of pur­chase when they’re leant on, and their road noise is some­thing I could prob­a­bly live with be­cause they are so grippy.

What goes up must come down, and even though I pre­fer go­ing up, it’s just as thrilling zoom­ing down, and of course you don’t need to have so much power on head­ing down­hill be­cause you have gra­di­ent and weight of car work­ing for you. But, in the as­cen­dant, you feel the en­gine work­ing harder, and that’s more thrilling be­cause it’s de­liv­er­ing the most power and the most torque. Go­ing down doesn’t re­quire full throt­tle to at­tain op­ti­mum per­for­mance; it’s about brak­ing harder, too, as well as judg­ing turn-ins ac­cu­rately. ‘It’s also a lit­tle bit safer to go up than down,’ Max reck­ons, ‘be­cause if you miss a cor­ner you re­ally are go­ing too fast, but if you’re head­ing up you al­ways have a lit­tle bit of grav­ity to fight against.’ What­ever, this is the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for hon­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing an au­to­mo­tive work of art. It may be a project car but, frankly, it’s hard to see how the GTS could be bet­tered as it is, though the ad­di­tional aero might raise the stakes, on the Au­to­bahn as well as vis­ually. What­ever they do, it won’t be an up­hill strug­gle. PW


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