Yes, you read correctly. I have witnessed a car with an automatic transmission compete successfully in an autocross! Not only does the driver and the car do well, he is more competitive than an equally equipped model of the same car that is manually shifted. So, what are the facts?
I am talking about Paalo’s VW Golf GTI with the DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) automatic transmission (this link goes to a very thorough, interesting and easy explanation of DSG). But, as Paalo explained to me, it’s simple. There’s one clutch for gears 1, 3 & 5 and a second clutch for gears 2, 4 & 6. The next idle gear is pre-engaged with the other clutch, so when it comes time to shift to the next gear, BAM, it’s done! A twin clutch transmission eliminates the lag time between gearshifts.
In yesterday’s SPOKES Autocross, the other Golf GTI (the manually shifted one by Dak and wrote about here as Body in White), just couldn’t keep up with the lost shift times disadvantage. At least that’s what Dak might be saying. In this shot he is preparing his camera for the next run.
Paalo normally runs his DSG transmission in Sport Mode – it stays in gear up to a higher RPM. In last week’s SASCA autocross, I rode along with Paalo. He also showed me how the Auto Launch worked. It’s sort of like what the F1 cars use. Essentially, you floor both the gas & the brake at the same time, let go of the brake & the computer takes over to accelerate you smoothly & powerfully off the line.
Another difference could be tires, I’m not sure (and neither is Dak). Paalo is running on Kumho 710 tires. This week Dak premiered his new Falken Azena tires. Although Dak was sorting out the characteristics of his tire tires, he came a winner in a different way. I will explain in another post…
In some ways, Racing Ready would like to improve performance in an automatic manner, too!