As he prepares for this weekend’s inaugural Jetta TDI Cup race at the VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) on April 27th, Michael DeNino took time out from wrenching on Ferrari F430’s to speak to oneighturbo.com. DeNino talks about his background, the Jetta TDI Cup Series, the Jetta TDI Cup car (so many of us have wanted to know about) and more.
Wrenching on Ferrari’s? Yes, we actually met up with Michael during last weekends, Ferrari Challenge at Road Atlanta, where he was a mechanic for the Ferrari of Washington team. The dude is definitely motivated and like most of these guys, needs to make ends meet. Volkswagen is providing a great platform for these guys but they still have to get by! Sponsors and donations are needed!
*Note: This is a partial interview. Michael is super busy and will be working with us throughout the series. Please, drop him some comments for the weekend ahead!
1.8T: First, from us and a ton of other enthusiast out there, Congratulations on making the selection of 30 drivers in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup, you must be really excited?
MD: Yes, I am extremely excited! This is an amazing achievement for me personally, and it is vital step for my career as a professional driver.
1.8T: Can you give us a bit about your background? (Birth, age, residents, occupation anything else you want to say)
MD: I was born July 7th, 1989 and lived in Peekskill, NY until I was about eight years old. My family then moved to Gaithersburg, MD where I currently live. My occupation is primarily focused on my career as a driver. I do some work as a crew member for a few different racing teams when I am not racing as well. I also enjoy the outdoors, spending much of my time mountain biking. I also enjoy many other sports such as snowboarding and rock climbing just to name a few.
1.8T: Can you give us a bit about your racing background?
MD: I started racing go-karts in 2003 when my mountain biking coach introduced me to the sport. My family has no connection or background in racing so it made things a little difficult in the sense we were learning as we went. They supported me nonetheless and I owe it to their support, along with dozens of other people, for the success I have created to this day.
1.8T: Being a VAG enthusiast site, we have to ask. Do or have you owned a Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche? Raced?
MD: My first car was a 2000 VW GTI VR6. I still own it today. I have not made any modifications to it. That is something that everyone asks me and they are so disappointed when I say no. The great thing about the car is that you don’t need to make any changes to it because it is a great car straight from the factory! (Amen to that)
1.8T: There have been a lot of questions surrounding the Jetta TDI Cup car. Can you give a break down?
MD: All of the drivers in the 2008 Jetta TDI Cup series will be driving identically prepared and maintained 2009 model year Volkswagen Jettas. All of the race vehicles will be prepared and maintained by Volkswagen. The cars are the same vehicles which you will be able to purchase at a Volkswagen dealership; however they have a few significant modifications to make them suitable for competition.
The Jetta Cup car is equipped with a 2.0 liter turbo diesel engine with direct injection (TDI). There have been some modifications made through the ECU to allow it to produce 170 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. The engine is paired up with a six speed direct shift gear box (DSG). The dual clutch gearbox is the same which is available on VW street models; however it utilizes the gear set from the Volkswagen R32, which is more suitable for track use. The car is also equipped with a differential lock.
The Jetta also has upgraded racing suspension as well as upgraded brakes. Brembo four piston calipers with 356mm rotors are used on the front, and Lucas single piston floating caliper with 255mm rotors are used on the rear. And yes, the front brakes are the same which are used on the rear on the Audi R8 street car. 8.5×18 inch ET 46 Ronal light alloy wheels and competition slicks are used on the race vehicle. (See our spy photo post here)
Modifications for safety include a FIA roll cage, FIA fire extinguisher, electrical system cutout switch, a Recaro racing seat, and a six point racing harness. All drivers are also required to wear a HANS device.
1.8T: After testing it in Arizona, what are your initial thoughts?
MD: The car felt good, it is lots of fun to drive, the engine is really quiet, smooth, and has plenty of torque.
1.8T: Do you have a website we can follow?
MD: Yes, I have a blog up at www.michaeldenino.com
1.8T: Care to give thanks to anyone?
MD: Big thanks to my sponsors: Barnes Paving, Triple Jeah, PitFit Training, and the Skip Barber Racing School