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  • The Courtenay Stage 2 test drive

    After having written my report on the weekend I spent with the Astra VXR supplied by Tony LeVoi Lakeside, Jon Shield invited me to test drive their stage 2 conversion on the Astra VXR.
    With some intensive development work and hard tuning sessions, the map was ready to go and knowing I would be looking for a factory finished map or better, Jon gave me the keys and I headed for the open road, yes on my own.
    The initial impressions where very favourable and knowing the car was on standard suspension I was happy it would be a good comparison to the standard car.
    Heading off into the Norfolk country gave plenty of opportunities to exploit the cars handling but not so much to see how fast you can go, but to test the overall driving from corner to corner. The throttle response was far more linear, delivering power at a far more predictable level without that sudden glob of power just when you don’t need it. Transition from throttle to brakes and back onto throttle can be achieved in a far smoother operation. The suspension being even easier to balance on quick changes
    This car delivers a very strong push in the back continuing to deliver right to the red line, without the engine feeling its being strangled. The only issue I can see is that the speed increases so quickly and is so less aggressive that you are going to be working even harder looking for those folks who are out to see if you are breaking the law!! (Not that I did).
    No matter how frequently I pushed the car to full throttle, then released and then to full throttle again the engine never seem to argue delivering the same constant acceleration from corner to corner, never giving any hint of heat build up, never giving any hint of the ignition timing being pulled back. In fact after talking to Jon there is no ignition retard being applied by the ECU even after constant hard acceleration.
    The throttle gave constant balancing ability in corners never over reacting to small increases in throttle angle and therefore giving a far better and easy car to drive.
    The power delivery to me even seemed to reduce some of the torque steer but you still know you have a huge volume of power under your foot and the push just gets stronger and stronger.
    What did become very apparent was the sound the Miltek was delivering. To me the standard exhaust sounds more like a jet fighter and seemed very strangled, but the Miltek was far freer flowing, giving the engine every chance to release its gases in a more efficient way. The system is well suited to the Courtenay map. I personally didn’t see the need to have the different power levels offered by the sport button as the car is so easy to drive you will always have it pushed onto the higher setting.
    It was encouraging and satisfying to see that Jon has purchased the Astra purely for developing the new maps, and so therefore not using customer cars as the testing ground. Also, Stephan has purchased an Astra OPC to take the map’s further as he feels the engine has potential, with further modifications, to yield greater power increases, stronger delivery and higher torque.
    In keeping with true engine developing Jon has gone to the extent of boring a hole in the exhaust manifold for measuring EGTs, (keeping within factory set tolerance), ensured the lambda values are kept in tolerance by using wide band
    lambda monitoring. Further more Jon data logged the whole development both on the
    dyno and on the road, to ensure OE levels of safety and protection are meet
    for the engine. This way they know the map is safely developed to cope with
    the demands and extreme loads equivalent to summer time use on for example the race circuit.
    Who ever goes for this superb re-map will never stop smiling. An excellent job completed by Courtenay’s on a well designed engine by Vauxhall. Now all I wait for is the re-map on the Vectra.

  • #2
    Interesting write up.
    I agree with you that it good to see tuners like Courtenay and Thorney with their own cars to develop maps on. Although as Thorney seem to have done, you need to install it on some trial customer cars to get feedback. IMHO you need to live with a car over a period of time to really get a feel for the remap, a days driving is not enough.
    The other interesting thing is your note on a linear throttle response. For me this area creates an interesting dilema. My last car was a MKV Golf GTI and that was very linear and you never really felt the turbo kick in. The push in the back on the VXR is something I like and would really miss if it was made too linear, although as you mention too much ooomph at once can corrupt and make driving difficult.
    Jonathan

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    • #3
      Nice write up Sparky, you seem to have got a good feel for the car, your points are spot on .I love the improved throttle over the standard set up much more control specially in the damp.
      Chinsvxr is quite right, its good to get feed back from other people. Jon has done just that with me on a few occasions. Previously I had an Astra G turbo that Jon installed a map on, when he was in the final throws off that development, that car is still in my family and the map still on the car to this day.
      Having had this car and a number of other hot Vauxhall's in the past, Jon asked if I wanted to evaluate the stage 2 on my VXR and another that I know off, Stephan had already done just that with a tuner he maps for in Switzerland on the Stage 1 and now has several mapped Stage 2 cars in Germany (Switzerland wont have stage 2 as they cannot change the exhaust !) At the moment there are two versions of the Stage 2 map. One has the torque coming in very hard at the bottom end and one builds to the peak torque a little later. The more aggressive version was the first I tried whilst being very impressive it can get tiring as it leaves the car struggling for traction and the torque steer is much more apparent. This in my opinion would suit the more aggressive driver, whist the set up I am currently on is the same as Jon's own car which I feel is better from a drivers point of view especially if you are using the car on B roads or road with a poor cambered surface (i.e. nearly all roads in Norfolk!). But hey this is only my opinion, I know allot of people have driven Jon's car and the vote is still divided, correct me if I'm wrong Jon, but I think Courtenay will do whichever version you want installed depending on your driving style. Horses for courses and all that.... Don't worry about the car not feeling turbocharged though, on either version it has an almighty push of raw turbocharged grin factor right through the midrange. :wink:
      Now having the Stage 2 , I'm back in next week for a brake disc upgrade combined with some vents to get some cool air to the front discs. I will let you know whats it like. Try to get some pics sorted as well.

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