While this may seem like an odd time to discuss this topic, I feel it’s the perfect opportunity given that we all have a very long, cold winter ahead which is a great time to either plan your DE mods for next year or, if you’re like me and have a heater and a lift, get out in the garage and start working!
I’d like to first mention that the most important mod to start with is the driver. All the power and suspension work in the world can’t help you if you don’t have the fundamental driving skills. UCR’s fantastic DE program is the way to go to initially “Mod the driver”.
There are quite a few basic mods required, in my opinion, before your 944, or any Porsche, sees the track. Make sure the car is in a good state of tune. Your car should be running well, no leaks, not blowing any smoke, fresh high performance oil, coolant, transaxle oil and especially a high quality brake fluid. With a 944, a recent timing belt, tensioner and water pump service will give piece of mind while flat out on the back straight at Mosport next year. I change my brake fluid before every DE and also change the engine oil after. It may seem excessive, but it’s cheap insurance.
Once the car is mechanically sound, you can start to look at a few popular modifications. My first suggestion is performance brake pads. There are many different manufacturers out there so look for a pad with good initial bite, easy to modulate, and made for operating at high temps. This can make a huge difference in your confidence on track. There are two ways to approach this modification. One is to use a street/track pad, which is a good idea if you don’t want to be bothered with swapping brake pads at the track. The other option, and the one I prefer, is to use a dedicated street pad, and a dedicated track pad.
Next up, I suggest upgrading the shocks. This a relatively easy upgrade that yields a huge improvement in ride and cornering for a modest outlay of cash. I use adjustable Koni yellow shocks due to their reasonable cost and excellent, consistent performance. I like the ability to fine-tune them for the street, and at the track. I also recommend you replace most of the suspension bushings if this hasn’t been done yet . Some of these cars are 30 years old and if the rubber is still original, it’s time for a change. Finally, I would look to upgrade the anti-roll bars. I found a set of used 89 Turbo S bars for my car and the reduction in body roll is significant.
Now, let’s look at the interior. A racing bucket seat is money well spent. Being held solidly and safely in place goes a long way in allowing the driver to focus on driving, instead of bracing yourself and hanging on for dear life! I personally use a one-piece fibreglass bucket seat that fits me well, offers great support and was even comfortable on a six hour trip to Calabogie. I use the factory seat belt as I am not yet ready for a roll cage, and a harness bar and harnesses should never be used unless a roll bar or cage is installed.
Last, I recommend a good set of track tires on track only wheels. I advise using a “square” setup, meaning four of equal width, equal offset, equal sized wheels and tires, to allow for tire rotation. This will help prolong the life of your track tires and allow you to easily swap from front to back if one set is wearing faster than the other. I don’t recommend R-compound tires if you are just starting out. A good, high quality summer only performance tire is the way to go. They generally offer more audible warning when at the limit, break away more gradually, and last longer than a dedicated R-compound tire.
Porsche 944s are fantastic DE cars and having one that’s well-tuned, and has some very basic modifications can satisfy even the most seasoned track veteran. You’ll probably notice I said nothing about adding power. Until you are able to fully exploit the limits of a 944 on track, power should be your last consideration