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Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 13th August 2020

Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars van. This week it’s Revo’s VW T5.1 from 2013…

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s neither. It’s an old plumber’s van with 80,000 miles on the clock. Oh, and it’s literally just smashed Sabine Schmitz’s Nürburgring lap record out of the park. Nice one, Revo!

Say what you like about the latest series of Top gear, but the show has previously thrown up some real gems on a Sunday evening. Not many people can forget the episode where the Eifel’s very own ‘Queen of the Ring’, Sabine Schmitz, valiantly pedalled a stock Ford Transit around the Green Hell in a mightily impressive 10.08. Sure, she cheated a little; drafting behind a Dodge Viper to get maximum airflow, and she may have taken literally everything out of the van to do it, but there can be no denying; it was just about as fast as a standard van can go.

This led VW Group tuning experts Revo to ask the question (probably after a pint too many in the local) Just what could a van with a few choice mods do the same lap in? After the morning-after beer haze had cleared it still seemed like a top idea, so while one half of the team went off to source a van, the other half started putting a few choice tuning parts together in conjunction with Revo’s other technical chums in the business.

To make it fair – and interesting – Big Chief James Leng laid down a few ground rules before the journey. The van had to be road legal. It had to drive to and from the Ring, and better than that, it had to carry all the crew’s gear there and back. No trailers, no contingencies – just a trusty VW van doing what VW vans do best.

Transporterland in Lydney sourced a tidy, 80,000 mile panel van, which was quickly transformed in Revo’s workshops into a track terror that would not only hand it to the Transit, but also look good at the same time.

The T5 is a handsome van anyway, but Revo’s graphics pack, a front lip spoiler and a swanky set of Transporterland upgrade seats soon got things looking a bit more circuit-ready. BILSTEIN B14 dampers soon followed, as did a trick Milltek exhaust, lightweight Team Dynamics wheels and sticky Dunlop Direzza tyres. A Forge intercooler and oil cooler would keep temperatures down at full chat and an afternoon of careful ECU tweakery by Revo’s top boffins soon had the engine singing a 220bhp song that would make any builder’s pasty fly off the dash. With the self-imposed deadline of the superb Destination Nürburgring event to get to, there was no time to source a set of Forge’s much-needed upgrade brakes for the T5, so the team replaced everything with OEM discs and pads and crossed their fingers.

The 580 miles to Germany was predictably quick and easy – with more than a couple of cars being startled on the unrestricted Autobahn as the van rumbled past at well into three figures. Once at the track, it got nothing more than a brief wipe over and tyre pressure check before the keys were handed over to Ring legend Dale Lomas, who donned his suit, popped on his helmet and fired off onto the track, thankfully remembering to press ‘start’ on the Racelogic GPS recorder on the way out.

It looked good from the first lap as Dale started to scalp a few slower moving race cars. By lap two, he was truly “on it” and by lap three, Dale was throwing the T5 around like he was playing GT5. And then he came in. Had there been a problem? Was everything OK? “Check that last one!” he laughed. “I think that might have been alright!” One quick download of the footage later, and Dale’s words couldn’t have been truer. That third hot lap had seen him complete the ENTIRE circuit in just 9.57. Sabine’s “Bridge to Gantry” time had been some 10 minutes and 8 seconds, and that distance is over a mile less than Dale’s lap. Put simply, Dale had managed to drive the T5 around the same bit of track as Sabine, but over 46 seconds faster!!! He hadn’t broken the record, so much as smashed it into tiny bits!

So, job done, man-hugs exchanged and bags loaded, the record-breaking T5 simply got back to its job as a van; driving the 580 miles home again in quiet, reliable comfort. It just goes to show, whether you’re a builder in a hurry, a Ring legend, or just a VAG head with a need for speed, the Revo boys are definitely worth a call!

Tech Spec Transporterland/Revo Nürburgring spec SWB 2.0 BiTurbo T5.5

Revo Stage2 performance software, Milltek ‘race’ exhaust inc. DPF delete, Forge MS FMIC and oil cooler kit

Bilstein B14 coilovers, Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 wheels, Dunlop Direzza DZ03 Tyres, OEM discs and pads

Words Paul Cowland Photos Frozenspeed