Perfecting APR Products On-Track With Daytona-Winning Porsche Driver Ian Baas

10 min read

Perfecting APR Products On-Track With Daytona-Winning Porsche Driver Ian Baas

10 min read
Ian Bass

APR's Ian Baas

APR is committed to producing upgrades that elevate your car to a new level of performance on road or track. In an earlier article (that you can read on the APR Blog by clicking here) we explored the thorough modeling, dyno and track-testing process that’s undertaken before APR’s ECU calibrations are released to customers. But for certain performance parts, the input of a pro race driver is a further, valuable addition to the development mix. That’s where APR’s in-house hot shoe, Ian Baas comes in.

Ian grew up around his grandfather’s race shop in Indiana. He began competing in club events on road courses in the late-1990s before moving to Formula Ford and GT racing. The big break came after Ian won the GT class of the Rolex 24 at Daytona alongside three other drivers in a TPC Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

“I then raced in various pro series, initially with Porsche,” he explains. “In 2006 I lived in Germany, racing in Carrera Cup Germany and Porsche Supercup. That was a formative time because I was working with Porsche factory drivers and getting lots of good experience against guys who were way above my skill level at the time!”

His relationship with APR began in 2007, when the tuning company sponsored his Audi A4 in the SCCA World Challenge, with Ian also competing in a Grand-Am Porsche that season. For 2008, that developed into a Volkswagen GTI program in Grand-Am’s ST class for newly formed APR Motorsport.

“I got in at the ground level,” he recalls. “I was very involved in getting the cars built and to the track. It was a very cool time– at one point we were running eight different cars on a single weekend out of three semi-trailers! With the Volkswagen GTI, Audi S4 and later the Audi R8, we tried to find cars that made sense to our customer base. The rules didn’t always mean that we could run APR parts, but we were able to showcase our software calibrations and the ingenuity of our engineers. Racing created a ton of excitement for everyone in the company.”

Rising costs under the new IMSA setup led APR to withdraw from racing at the end of 2013. By this point, Ian was already working in sales for the company during the week. Since then, his role has evolved to incorporate product testing to support the engineers, as well as providing his expert input to the marketing team.

“For pretty much any go-faster part, we want to take the car to the track and push it at 100%, because that will reveal all of the weaknesses much quicker than, say, on a dyno or on the street,” he explains. “By running a car for 10 or 15 consecutive hard laps, we can help ensure that the product is safe, because that’s harder than most of our customers will use it.”

APR Audi R8

But Ian’s input to APR products extends far beyond this kind of stress testing at the end of a product’s development cycle. Much earlier in the process, he uses his experience of developing cars from the ground up to recognize any limitations faster and more clearly than the engineers might, or highlight flaws that might not show up in the data. His consistency from lap to lap can bridge the gap between evaluating the subjective ‘feel’ of the car or component and assessing how its performance stacks up in objective measurement.

“Just recently we did some back-to-back testing on a new suspension component,” he offers by way of example. “The engineers came to me to develop a testing strategy to quantify the product. That can be difficult because handling products are so opinion-based: does the car feel good just to you, or to everyone else as well? We were able to perform back-to-back tests [on different setups] in the same environments and document the results.”

Ian’s experience means he is also able to match an understanding of what the customer wants from a product, with what the engineers are able to deliver. “We have to focus on the consumer experience,” he says. “Often, with performance upgrades, you have to give up something to gain something – trading ride quality or more cabin noise for a firmer suspension, for instance. It’s about finding the right balance.”

APR Ian Bass

Single-minded race drivers don’t always make the best street-car chassis engineers, but Ian has modified enough of his own vehicles to know that you can’t always sacrifice ride comfort in the pursuit of handling gains.

“Most of our customers will use our products driving to and from work or to the store, maybe with some spirited driving on the roads,” he acknowledges. “Only a minority will track the car regularly. Understanding that is very important. For the chassis side of things, balancing ride quality, reliability and performance is crucial. And when you’re trying to confirm a product like that, testing is not about driving at ten-tenths: consistency is more important. I don’t approach development driving as a race driver, unless we are doing final product testing, for instance with an ECU for the Porsche992, driving it as hard as I can on the track to highlight any shortcomings.”

In his latest role as part of APR’s marketing team, Ian stars in videos to explain to customers the benefits of a new product, leveraging his technical knowledge of performance vehicles and credibility as a race winner. It’s a logical development from his long-time involvement in APR’s track days, riding alongside customers to demonstrate what a performance street-car is capable of in the hands of a professional driver. “Typically, the light bulb goes on in people’s heads,” he smiles. “Often drivers don’t realize how late they can brake, or how much speed they can carry into a corner. It gives them trust in our engineers and they’ll tell their friends about our products.”

Ian also brings his experience to bear by highlighting potential new products for development, whether that’s a new suspension component or an engine and transmission software upgrade, for example. “I’m lucky to have been able to experience so many generations of Volkswagens, Audis, BMWs and Porsches that you can see the similarities from generation to generation,” he adds. “It’s given me a unique perspective. You know that particular cars will have certain inherent problems that you can focus on fixing. Once the products are ready, I can then help to prove them in the market by explaining the benefits to our customers.

“I enjoy the marketing side because I’m more involved in the product development process,” he concludes. “At APR we try to bring marketing pretty heavily into our product development. That’s paramount because, data aside, there’s often emotion involved in why someone wants a product a certain way. We read all of our customers’ comments online and I can help translate what they’re saying into engineering terms. Ultimately that leads to better products that work in the real world.”

APR MkV Project


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