10th GTI-International 1997
By Bernd Felsche
The GTI International is a meeting of GTI enthusiasts held at the
Transport Research Laboratories (TRL) in Crowthorne near Reading in
England, in mid-May when the weather is supposed to be pleasant.
Electronic correspondence alerted me to this and an invitation was
extended for me to attend.
|Mk1 GTI - What started it all.
||Mk2 GTI - Just in case you didn't know.
I changed my holiday plans to suit and made it an agenda item. A quick
90-mile run from Bristol to Bracknell on the Friday evening brought me
to the hotel.
The first day started sunny but cool. A 10-minute drive from Bracknell
to Crowthorne took me to the end of the early-bird queue. The car park
was only about two rows deep at the time; some 500 cars. I converted my
10 entry fee to a press pass at the GTI International desk in the main
display tent, thanks to Paul Harris of Volkswagen Audi Magazine who
kindly sent me a fax for that purpose.
I met David Pipes, a motoring journalist and GTI enthusiast, as
pre-arranged at 8:30. David's guided tour of the day included
background information on the TRL grounds which are used for crash,
tyre, driver and road hardware testing. Anything to do with roads gets
tested here from time to time.
|Abt-Kit on Polo
||Mk2 Golf kits abound
The middle of the display grounds was fenced off to provide two lanes
for quarter-mile drag races - well, sprints actually. For a few pounds,
the driver could see how well his pride and joy did against the clock;
and for a little more money, a graph of speed against distance could be
supplied. Unfortunately, occasional showers kept the ground damp so
the quarter mile sprints were rather slow. This didn't dampen the
enthusiasm of the punters once the sun made a showing; they were lined
up for about 400 metres waiting for their turn.
Quarter-mile setup for acceleration testing
Yokohama provided new A520 tyres so that anybody who wished could
compare them on the special slalom course in another corner of the
grounds. Long queues throughout the day proved this to be a more
popular diversion, not the least reason being that it was free.
Of course; the main reason for being at the International for most was
to meet other GTI enthusiasts, exchange ideas, look at the cars on
display (and those just parked!) and perhaps pick up a bargain at one
of the many trade stands.
You could even buy a car, with prices ranging from about 1500 to
12,000. There were certainly some interesting cars on offer, with
respectable ones ready to drive away at around 3000. At the bottom end
of the range, some sad-looking Mk 1's and neglected Mk 2's were on
offer, desperately looking for well-funded enthusiasts to give them a
second or third lease of life. Of course, Sciroccos, Corrados, other
Volkswagens and Audis were also on sale and display.
Amongst the special vehicles on show were a VR6 powered Polo and a
twin-VR6 powered Golf. Both of these put on a good show at the sprints
with the latter covering the distance in a little over 12 seconds in
the dry, even with noticeable less than optimal matching of its 2.8 and
2.9 litre engines.
|5-valve heads already availble
||Trick and stock cars for sale
As the day developed, more and more cars arrived, mostly GTIs, with the
car park filling with about 4000 cars by 2 p.m.; and more kept arriving
until quite late in the afternoon. This is an amazing sight to behold
for an Australian. All those GTIs, Volkswagen and Audi cars crammed
into one place!
|Yes, a VR6 will fit in a Polo
||VR6 upgrades for the power-hungry Mk2
The weather worsened as the day progressed, though that did not
discourage busy hands at the show-and-shine which seemed to be fighting
a losing battle against the drizzle and occasional showers. Spectators
seemed to find adequate shelter amongst the commercial display tents
(even tolerating loud music not to their taste in one), in the main
pavilion and the dining tent.
|GTIs as far as the eyes can see
||Saturday arvo, and still more arrivals
Hunger pangs could be fended off with quantities of burgers and various
other snacks available from several stands; lubricated by hot and cold
drinks; all available at quite reasonable prices.
At about 5 p.m., my weary feet carried me to the car park so that I
could join one of the queues leading out of Crowthorne. Traffic was
smooth, thanks to the local constabulary regulating flow.
I spent the evening at the hotel wondering what had happened to my
change of clothes, until a very apologetic night-manager showed up with
a bag of clothes, explaining that an over-zealous house-keeper had
placed them in lost-property, in the belief that I'd vacated the room.
That was certainly enough of a day for me, so I called it a night and
went to bed early, around sunset at 9:30 pm.
|Rare original Oettinger 16-valve Golf
||Polo Harelquin Officials' Car
Breakfasting was essential to sustain me through the second day. With
my bags packed, I checked out of the hotel and and hit the road around
8:45, arriving at the TRL at the opening time of 9 am. The bright
orange SPECIAL VEHICLE sticker on the windscreen caused me to be
diverted to a special car park close to the action. Bewdy!
I started the day with a shopping trip around the vendors; taking
advantage of special offers to stock up on those bits and pieces which
are hard to find down under, having spent part of the previous day
scouting around the various stands. Unfortunately, I had to consider
the baggage limit for the remainder of my holidays, as well as possibly
overstepping the bounds of what Australian Customs would consider to be
exempt. So the pearlescent Audi S2 coupe was out of the question!
As the grounds filled with more and more cars and people; the 1/4-mile
sprints started and the tyre testing attracted more rev-heads. One even
displayed the anti-social ability to convert rubber to smoke. An act
which was frowned upon; especially those downwind, in the Concourse
|Rare Quattro Sport Coupé
||Scirocco pretending to be a Quattro
Scirocco Mk2 happy being a Scirocco
The main difference in the format of the day to the previous one was
the Concourse d'Elegance instead of a show-and-shine as centrepiece.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't co-operate, providing only brief
periods of sunshine between gusty winds, occasional rain and drizzle.
The English, Scots, Welsh, as well as the French, Belgians, Germans and
other Europeans all did their best. At times the Concourse was a hive
of activity with dozens of polishing cloths and towels flashing in the
I met some Germans from the Mönchengladbach GTI Club who invited me to
their meeting on the following Friday (which I was unfortunately unable
to attend due to bad weather and the steering wheel being on the wrong
side of the car).
Around noon, the pace of the day had settled and people wandered around
the Concourse between showers, chatting to owners and enthusiasts
alike. The tyre testing continued unabated, attracting crowds of
spectators around its perimeter, often aghast at the capabilities of
the cars and tyres, and sometimes the lack of ability of the drivers.
|Loads of lovely VW Corrado coupés
The end of the day drew near and a trickle of visitors began to leave
around 3pm often with booty from on-site vendors in hand.
As I still had a long drive back to Bristol ahead of me, I did a final
circuit around the grounds, departing just before 5pm, after watching
the presentation of trophies.
Lime-green, lowered Passat drew loads of attention
Looking back at the whole event; it would have been much nicer if the
weather had been cooperative, and I for one would have appreciated
something other than tarmac for at least some on the display (though
grass would have been turned to mud by spectator pedestrian traffic in
some areas). Although it didn't turn out to be everything I'd expected
it to be, it did present quite a few things which were unexpected. It
was certainly enjoyable to be there, to absorb the enveloping GTI
atmosphere. I'd go again, given the chance, preferably with my own
Copyright © 1997,1999 Bernd Felsche.