The last piece of the puzzle is custom TPC ECU tuning with adjustability offered via a plug-in switcher to select power modes based on octane. Of the power on tap, Levitas enthuses, “The car will run mid-tens in the quarter-mile at over 135 mph.” He goes on to explain that his last trip to the drag strip ended when he was kicked out for running a sub-11-second pass without a roll cage.
The Meteor Gray AWE car belongs to another racer, this one ALMS shoe Tim Pappas. Its color is tastefully set off by BBS LM-R wheels framing yellow PCCB calipers. The only other visible modification is the small AWE 750R sticker. It’s understated and cool in a laid-back sort of way. Again, it doesn’t fall far from the personality of its architect, AWE’s Todd Sager, a measured man who seems to embody the maxim “Walk softly and carry a big stick.”
AWE’s approach to increased power follows a general OEM fitment philosophy. Comments Sager: “We wanted easy modularity to allow consumer choice across the broader parts market. We find that our customers value that.” Additionally, Sager aimed to develop parts that would operate safely within the limits of the stock engine’s internals: “We wanted to maximize power reliably, without having to crack open the engine.”
Forged aluminum, CNC-machined compressor wheels replace the stock cast-aluminum compressor parts, increasing reliability at higher rotational speeds. Intercoolers are direct bolt-on replacements, designed in-house and 37 percent larger than stock, yielding a 55º F temperature drop with a one-psi pressure increase. Sachs’ Racing Stage 2.5 clutch ensures enough clamping force to handle a claimed 646 lb-ft at 5000 rpm.
AWE designed headers that incorporate HJS 200-cell cats which feed into AWE mufflers. It also designed a ten-percent-larger throttle body adapter, which measures 82 mm. Finally, in collaboration with chip tuner GIAC, a unique tune was created that offers five profile options: premium fuel (700 hp), 100-octane race fuel (750 hp), valet mode (50 hp with a 30-mph speed limit), ignition kill (car will not start, even with the key), and stock boost — all accessed using a handheld switcher that plugs into the OBD II port under the dash.
One look at the stance of these 997s is enough to know that they’ve got chassis upgrades. The AWE 750R’s suspension modifications are pretty modest, consisting of Bilstein Damptronic coil-overs, a 24-mm H&R adjustable rear anti-roll bar set to full soft, and GT3 two-piece lower front control arms. TPC’s 775B has more extensive changes: Bilstein Damptronic coil-overs with custom valving and custom springs, a front anti-roll bar that’s 50 percent thicker than the stock piece, a rear anti-roll bar 30 percent thicker than stock, TPC’s adjustable drop links, 997 GT3 Cup control arms in front (machined to fit), and front-end geometry changes to TPC specs. While AWE was running stock ceramic brake pads for the 750R’s factory PCCB brakes, TPC chose Pagid Yellow (RS19) pads for the 775B.
Time to get moving. I nab the bright red 775B’s keys first and Chapman climbs into the gray AWE 750R. Levitas’ final imperative (“Don’t disengage PSM!”) includes a cautionary wag of the finger. I never kill PSM on a first drive, but his words keep echoing in my head.
Tooling through VIR’s interior roads at 20–25 mph, the 997s feel remarkably stock. Both start and drive almost exactly like their unmodified counterparts. At this point, the only noticeable difference between the two is the sound: the AWE 750R has a more explosive, raspier note than the 775B, a facet that magnifies exponentially under more aggressive throttle.