Porformance shootout 2021 Day 3
The Saldanha airfield at dawn was grey and 01 wreathed in fog. The previous evening’s concern about the weather gave way to genuine worry. It’s one thing to performance test the cars on a runway surface covered in loose gravel, but rain could mar any results or potentially prove a danger to the test crew.
A promising early break in the gloom enabled us to test a couple of cars before a second bank of fog blew in. Testing ground to a halt and sent the team scrambling for the shelter of the control tower but, fortunately, the rain failed to materialise and drag races could recommence.
We’re not going to go into too much detail of the test results here as the comprehensive chart on page 76 and drag race videos on CARmag.co.za will reveal which cars exceeded expectations and those that left us shaking our heads in disappointment.
There were a couple of highlights interspersed with the hurried application of testing equipment and strategic placement of photographers and videographers around the testing strip, though. There was a tense moment as word of an incoming plane had the team abandoning their carefully prepared positions and retreating to the taxiway.
The Jaguar F-Type’s searing acceleration runs had many members of the CAR team gnawing their fingernails to the quick. Lighter car after lighter car simply couldn’t catch the big cat in a straight line; even the GT4 and M2 CS weren’t able to match the off-the-line shove of its frankly startling 3,95-second 0-100 km/h sprint. The levels of incredulity seemed to peak when the Stelvio’s run came within three-hundredths of a second of the Jaguar’s time.
The runway’s uncharacteristically loose surface probably handed a significant advantage to the AWD members of the Shootout roster … where else could the admittedly powerful Jeep pip the Supra in a straight line? This gave rise to some concerns going into the final – and possibly most telling – leg of the performance testing schedule with Deon Joubert on the track. Factor in some concerns surrounding the condition of the Trophy’s clutch and the track-verboten GT4 injuring one of its rear paws and things looked rather shaky as we filed out of the airfield towards Cape Town and a date with Killarney race circuit and Deon Joubert ...
It was a truly magical sight for a CAR Performance Shootout: the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 sat in the pits as road test engineer Peter Palm strapped Vbox datalogging equipment into its passenger seat for a hot lap. It's the _ rst time since John Bentley and his team lapped a 911 GT3 RS around a makeshift course at Upington Airport in 2008 that a contender from Zuffenhausen has graced us with its presence on track. The big question was whether this lightweight machine could claim a time worthy of its GT4 moniker. Some of the more powerful competitors would be tough to beat.
Thankfully the conditions at Killarney Raceway were near perfect. Overcast with a slight 19 km/h northerly wind; temperatures had stabilised at 22 degrees Celsius, ideal conditions for fast lap times. Overheating would hopefully not be an issue.
Despite our wishes, the power-hungry track was too much for this year’s RTR Ford Mustang Spitfire to handle. The Spitfire, staying true to its nature on the road trip, overheated midway through its hot lap and was unable to seal in a competitive time. Deon still had high praise for its capabilities though, saying there was lots of potential in the car and that with improved cooling, it could definitely set a competitive lap time.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, despite being the only car to have the word “track” in its name, struggled to put its mammoth power to good use at Killarney. Its supercharged V8 had no issues delivering on the cornerless sections – achieving a top speed of 213 km/h down the back straight – but those curves proved a challenge, particularly the double-apex turn 4 so crucial for setting a quick lap time. As Deon put it, the Trackhawk’s traction control couldn’t be switched off entirely which caused it to intervene when throttle was applied at corner exit. Excessive body roll was also a deterrent.
Due to these inconsistencies, the Trackhawk set a time 0,80 seconds shy of the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, despite boasting a significantly better power-to-weight ratio. According to Deon, the touring car racinginspired hot hatch doesn’t quite live up to its badge on the circuit. While well put-together, the last of this generation’s GTI is held back by an intrusive dual-clutch transmission and finicky front electronic differential.
Faring significantly better on Killarney, despite concerns over a slipping clutch, was the Renault Mégane RS 300 Trophy which benefited from a manual gearbox and front limited-slip differential that didn’t get in the way of Deon’s driving style. Thanks to this and more power under the bonnet, the Trophy managed to clear a time 1,10 seconds faster than the 280 Cup which we tested in December 2019.
Pushing the performance SUV narrative forward with some might was the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q which crossed the line a tenth of a second quicker than the Trophy. Boasting a better power-to-weight ratio than the French hot hatch, Deon explained that the Italian SUV felt quite different to its German counterparts. While it has a terrific transmission, the Stelvio shows more body roll and understeer than the X3 M or GLC63 S but after a few laps, it became notably more inviting to drive fast thanks to its characterful chassis. Bear in mind that, rather bizarrely, the car provided to us possessed one incorrect tyre (Pirelli Scorpion Verde rather than P Zero) on the front left wheel … the wheel that does most of the work at Killarney.
Besting the Stelvio by a full three seconds was Affalterbach’s latest hyper hatch; the Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4Matic+. Although it was not the fastest in this year’s roster, it did manage to claim the second-highest maximum lateral acceleration figure of 1,13 Gs thanks to its grippy all-wheel-drive system. Deon was quite surprised when he saw its impressive time of 1:23,50 as, from behind the wheel, he said it simply didn’t feel that fast. Nevertheless, he believes it’s still an amazing car to pilot at a track thanks to good brakes and its responsive transmission.
Doing more with less was the Toyota GR Supra 3,0T Horizon Blue. Unlike the get-inand- go A45 S, Deon needed some time to adapt to the Japanese sportscar’s twitchy rear axle. Once he’d tailored his driving style to the chassis, he was able to bring the Supra down into the 1:23-second range. Deon stated that with stiffer suspension to alleviate the rear’s tendency to roll into oversteer, this would make for a perfect track-day car.
Turning up the wick significantly was the Jaguar F-Type R P575. Despite taking the shape of a svelte British sportscar, it has a lot in common with the slowest car on the track. Like the Trackhawk, the F-Type is all-wheel drive with a snarling supercharged V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. However, based on the numbers, they are polar opposites. The beastly Jag is the first in this line-up to enter the 1:22 vicinity. Additionally, down the back straight, it achieved the fastest top speed: 230 km/h.
From behind the wheel, Deon commented the F-Type was well appointed and lovely to spend time in. However, a few laps in, there were signs of the brakes fading. It’s clear this car was optimised for the road rather than the track which makes its lap time even more impressive.
The last two contenders were built with track-use in mind. Now with more power and a slightly stiffer chassis setup, the BMW M2 CS proved to be the best iteration of the now iconic moniker as it set a time of 1:22,30. Deon guessed that had it been supplied with the stickier specification of tyres – the Michelin Cup 2 Connects – it could have gone about half a second faster. Regardless, thanks to good brakes, balanced steering and a great transmission, it was an awesome car to pilot on the track.
After many years of Porsches placing first in Shootout without going on the track, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 was finally let loose to prove its worth and, as expected, it did not disappoint. With its track-favoured tyres, long-ratio manual transmission, darting mid-engined configuration and highdownforce aerodynamic package, the GT4 assured everyone that it’s not “all show and no go” at Killarney Raceway by besting the M2 CS by a full second. Furthermore, it was able to achieve the highest maximum lateral acceleration and corner speed through turns 1 and 2. At 139 beats per minute, the GT4 had Deon’s heart pumping the hardest as he got dialled into the car to maximise the lap time. Deon assures us that it’s the best car for the track thanks to its driver-focused seating position, linear power delivery, excellent braking and near-endless levels of grip.