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GoGoGear.com Genesis Coupe Wins Championship Using StopTech
by Frank A. Filipponio | Jul 27, 2015

Guest Blog Post by: Ali Arsham – Owner/Driver of the USTCC Champion GoGoGear.com Hyundai Genesis Coupe 

Many people dream of winning a professional racing championship, but usually never do anything about it. We decided to do something about it and were so excited when it finally happened, but it certainly was not an easy journey and we are always reminded that it takes so much hard work. As John F. Kennedy said, we do them “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Our journey started in 2010, when we approached Hyundai Motor America with the idea that we can build a great car to compete in the Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC), using the just-released Genesis Coupe V6. On paper, the car looked like it would make a great race car with everything that you wanted in a race car.  A strong engine, good suspension, good chassis, big brakes, suitable gearing, and more – all was standard in the Genesis Coupe V6 Track Edition. They liked the idea and we debuted the car at the 2010 SEMA show. Hyundai made it clear that they are not providing official factory support for the project, but they would help whenever possible.

Since the Genesis Coupe was a brand new car, there was no data on the car. Nobody had raced the car before, which meant we had to do all of the development by ourselves.  As a new car, finding pre-made parts and components for the car was nearly impossible.

For those of you who have never done it, the development of a race car is not an easy thing to do. If you are building a BMW, there are tons of people that will get you the right parts, shock settings, spring rates, alignment settings, engine tuning, etc. with a phone call. Choose a unique first year production car like the Hyundai Genesis and your job is much more challenging. We started with our friends at ARK Performance, who specialize in Hyundais and helped with some carbon fiber body parts and some mechanical parts. 

A mistake that many people make in this business is to try too hard to make the car fast at the start, but risk damage to components. With very little knowledge of the car, we approached things the opposite way. Knowing that the Genesis Coupe 3.8 liter V6 was a strong engine, we pushed gently to see how much it can take. The first thing we found was that temperature control would be vital with this car. It is one thing to drive down to the grocery store, but when you are pushing the car to its limit, the water temperature would rocket. We fixed that with a custom radiator that solved our issues forever. We also had to fix our high oil temperatures which were addressed with a huge oil cooler and some custom plumbing. We installed a racing clutch that has been in the car untouched after four years of racing. It fed power through a custom made and super durable driveshaft. We also installed sensors so we can monitor the temperatures of everything else including the manual transmission and the differential.

We were very impressed with the solid foundation of the Genesis Coupe with a solid engine, great suspension, and fantastic reliability. We also found that some components needed to be upgraded, such as the limited slip differential which worked great on the street, but could not put the power down efficiently in the harsh conditions of racing. A racing limited slip differential fixed the issue. The stock brakes were great on the rear axle, but the fronts could not take the abuse, so StopTech 6 piston calipers and huge rotors were installed to cope with the rigors of constantly slowing down from triple digit speeds.

The suspension is perhaps the most important part of a road race car and we used three-way dampers along with new springs and anti-roll bars to tune the chassis. Much of the stock rubber bushings were replaced with race-worthy bearings.

The goal for the first year was to finish every race. We worked on temperature control and reliability and managed to reach our goal. The second year we wanted to get the car to be in the top 10 and we did that finishing in eighth place with the highlight of the season being a third place podium finish.

By the third year we knew we had a good car. We could see that our advantage was the Hyundai reliability. We may not have been the fastest, but often we were going while others were stranded on the side of the track. In the third year, we wanted to finish in the top three in the championship. When the season started, we were not one of the quickest and the season opener was a disappointing 8
th place finish. Round two was in Salt Lake City’s high elevation, which was not kind to the Genesis V6. However, with a lot of suspension improvements, we had a glimmer of hope with a fourth place finish. The next round was at the world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the hard work of the team was beginning to show as the car was fighting for second place and eventually finished third.

 The next race was the biggest race of the season with a double header at the FIA World Touring Car Championship weekend at Sonoma. The event draws a huge field of top drivers, but the Genesis Coupe fought off most of the field and finished third once again on Saturday, proving that it was a consistent podium finisher. Sunday’s race was a huge letdown as the Genesis was poised to finish fifth, but it was hit during a red flag stoppage to clean up some oil on the course and the suspension was damaged. That race destroyed our hopes to achieve our goal as we finished the season in fourth place. Had we finished in fifth in that race, we would have finished the season in second place. It was a tough pill to swallow but racing is full of what ifs. There was a silver lining in the season results. We knew that the car was definitely quicker and we were making improvements.

In the winter of 2013, as we were working on getting ready for the 2014 season, Speed Academy magazine was interested in doing a story on the car. They planned to bring one of their drivers to test drive the car and write an article about it. The editor called me one day and said that the driver they selected is Gary Sheehan. Interestingly, I had known Gary for over 10 years and had raced against him for many years and have a tremendous amount of respect for his talents. Gary tested the car and really enjoyed driving it, but also noticed a few areas that needed improvements. I knew from last year that an experienced race engineer is vital to a team’s success. Gary had not raced in a long time and he said he had no plans for the year so we decided to join forces and see what we could do together.

At the first race of 2015, Gary kept questioning me with everything about the car. It was a very busy race, because it was compressed into one day with the race on Saturday night and we had trailer issues on Saturday morning, which totally set us back. Once at the track, I told Gary to make whatever setup changes he felt the car needed for the track configuration. Once the race started, Gary was on the radio with me and was asking me how I liked the car. I was blown away; the car had never handled better. The car was just so much easier to drive at the limit with no nasty habits and a gentle oversteer when you needed it. We could have finished in third place but the race was at night and our lights were inadequate so we were happy to finish fourth. Next year, we will have some big PIAA lights.

Race two was in Las Vegas and it was Gary’s turn to drive, but we almost didn’t get to drive at all. Before practice, our dash unit was not working and we were nervous driving the car with no gauges, but Lance, our chief mechanic and ex-factory Hyundai technician, found a loose wire and fixed the problem. After the first practice session on a very hot day, Gary complained of low oil pressure. We thought that the motor was gone but thanks to the data logging capabilities of the dash, we found that everything was normal. Gary went on to finish second, but the winner was eventually disqualified for technical issues and we finally scored our first win. After two races, we were suddenly in first place in points. Gary followed that up with two more wins during the following races.  Suddenly, we were the ones to beat in the paddock. By the time my turn to race came, we had a big lead in the points and strategy shifted to protecting our lead and not making any mistakes. Going into the last race, we just needed to finish in the top 10 to clinch and we finished in second place and set the fast lap of the race.

The Genesis Coupe is an amazing car. It is a great looking car that turns heads wherever it goes. It also has a great suspension that handles like a dream. The StopTech brakes are fully capable of stopping the car from high speeds time after time. Our car does not have the GDI engine that was introduced in 2013, which could provide a significant horsepower boost. Consequently, we are a bit slower than the BMW M3s and Mitsubishi Evos on the straights, but we make it up in the turns. Being fast is important, but we know reliability is key to finishing. The Genesis Coupe is the most reliable car that I have raced, and I have been racing for a long time. Another aspect is maintenance costs. The other cars in the series – the BMW, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Honda and others are so much more expensive to maintain. Parts for the Genesis Coupe are budget friendly.

So what are the plans for 2015? We have not yet decided. It is a life consuming process to run a car for an entire season. We are guaranteed that most weekends are spent improving the car and during the week we are talking to sponsors, gathering parts and doing promotional work to help the sponsors and more. It is usually the little stuff that one thinks will not make a difference, but they add up. Racing also takes a toll on your family as your time with them is highly diminished. Fortunately, my family is part of the team and everyone helps out and everyone races. When we are not racing in USTCC, my kids and I take our race karts to the track and try to improve our driving techniques. Racing is a life consuming passion, yet we still do it and we love it because we enjoy being together and focusing on a goal. Admittedly, it is easier when the race car is so sweet and fun to drive.  I love our Hyundai.

- Ali Arsham



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