Wesley Lem's 1995.5 Audi S6
Installing BIRA Brakes
(Finally, some real brakes for the Audi S6)
Here are a few quotes about automotive braking systems that I have collected over the years.
“A great car starts with great brakes”
“Zero to 60 to Zero is the true performance measurement of sports cars today”
“The weakest link in a car is usually caused by bean counters who want to keep the manufacturing cost down to appease shareholders”
“Great brakes do wonders for your high-speed driving confidence. It’s really nice to have gobs of reserve braking under your left foot especially when you need to decelerate from 80 to 50 in a highway emergency maneuver”
This article describes the events leading up to my decision to join BIRA and to perform a BIRA System 1 brake upgrade for my Audi S6.
A number of influences consciously and subconsciously helped convince me to proceed with a BIRA upgrade. Those influences include:
1) The RONIN (John Frankenheimer) car chase sequence where the nitrous powered Audi S8 rocks in the south-of-France: 4-wheel power slides, massive braking into hairpin curves and a hair-raising chase sequence through the narrow streets of Nice always gets me charged up. (These scenes are best viewed on DVD with a nice high resolution TV screen like the Sony WEGA or Philips Gas Plasma Monitor) I’m blown away by how well the S8 performs on the open road and tight narrow streets that are barely wide enough for Fiat Topolinos or Mini Coopers.
2) The famous Bullitt chase scene where Steve McQueen (in a souped-up 1969 427 Ford Mustang) is chasing the bad guys (in their 1969 440 Hemi Dodge Charger) through the hilly streets of San Francisco.
3) The Ford Taurus New Car intro tape (Produced in 1986) with Jackie Stewart doing laps on the Ford Proving ground demonstrating with Jim McKay riding shotgun how to drive smoothly while maintaining full control of a vehicle when doing laps around a race track. This was the most convincing demonstration that driver skill is the most important element in getting around a track in the shortest period of time. It really impressed upon me the importance of driving smoothly and keeping full control of the vehicle and that sheer power of a vehicle could be more of a liability than an asset.
4) Watching Greg Amy keep up with Porsches and BMWs in his 1991 20V Quattro at Lime Rock Park. I was amazed at how late he was able to brake (BIRA System 2) after entering the turns and still maintain full control of his vehicle coming out of the turns.
5) The numerous BIRA debates on the S-Car list and the BIRA web site peaked my curiosity as I analyzed the pros-and-cons of 3rd party brake upgrades currently available for the Audi S6.
6) Finally, I was getting tired of continually wondering if I had enough brake for the Merritt Parkway’s short exit ramps. It seemingly took forever to scrub off speed when I stood on the brake pedal.
A few words about brake feel and braking power……
Braking has always been a very subjective issue. Brake feel is something that is very hard to quantify, yet we all know when we have driven a vehicle that has excellent brake feel. Excellent brake feel inspires confidence when entering turns. Thus, you can enter turns at a higher rate of speed, exit the turn later, and get around the track faster. You can also anticipate emergency braking situations with more confidence, and you feel that there is a much higher margin of safety if you ever have to slam on the brakes for an emergency stop or to avoid a vehicle by swerving to another lane for collision avoidance.
The standard stock G60 brakes that come with Audi’s S6 did not inspire the kind of braking confidence that I was looking for. The brakes from my 1989 200 Quattro arguably felt better. The brakes on my wife’s 99 Audi A6 are superb and really bring the car to a smooth, powerful stop with no muss or fuss. They inspire confidence. In addition to the powerful brake booster, the design is just superior to the one that came stock on the 1995 S6. Now, it could just be that my G60s need new calipers and/or new rotors and brake pads, but I’ve driven other S6 and S4s with factory stock G60 brakes, and the brake feel was very similar to mine. New brake pads with a better pad compound might have helped but after pricing new OEM rotors and calipers, the BIRA solution became more attractive.
BIRA System 1 Benefits:
1) Uses readily available off the shelf Audi and Porsche parts; it’s about a 95% factory bolt-on solution including brake pads.
2) Easy installation. Easy to perform as a morning project or a couple of hour installation if performed by a trained Audi mechanic.
3) The A8 rotor’s larger surface provides greater fade resistance and improved heat dissipation; it’s also less prone to rotor warping than a G60.
4) The Porsche Monobloc Caliper is a superior brake design that utilizes 4 pistons (the G60s are a 2 piston design). The Caliper housing is compact and designed to be very rigid thus providing a more stable caliper platform. Further, it is constructed of high strength aluminum and its lighter weight compensates for the heavier weight of the A8 rotors.
5) The are various 16” and 17” wheel style options to choose from. OEM S4 and S6 16” factory alloy wheels fit with no clearance issues.
6) The coolness factor of showing off the Porsche Monobloc Calipers when your car is shod with wheels like the RONAL R28s.
7) A workable braking system for amateur autocross and track events. (You get superior brakes for the street and better brakes for track events).
8) The approximate $1,500.00 in savings from the BIRA system can be applied to larger diameter wheels and high performance tires. It can also be used for suspension, turbo, manifold, or ECU Chip upgrades.
9) A number of third-party Boxster Calipers brake pads are coming to market. In addition to the Porsche OEM brake pads, you can also opt for the Porterfields or Mintex Red Brake Pads.
10) I believe that the BIRA upgrade has enhanced the resale value of my Audi S6. As there are many arguments for keeping an S6 stock as a collector's car, it's real easy to retrofit the old G60 brakes. If I sell this S6, the buyer will most likely use it as a daily driver. Having great brakes will most certainly enhance the desirability and offer additional value over and S6 that has a stock G60 system installed.
Although I have not tracked my S6 yet I am convinced that the BIRA System 1 set-up is the best (not to mention the most cost-effective) upgrade I have performed on my S6 to date. It has really transformed its performance capabilities. My objective was to improve braking performance without having to spend $2,000 - $3,000. I am thoroughly satisfied with this solution. After driving approximately 250 miles on New York metro-suburban roads, I am amazed at how late I can brake into a corner and how much reserve stopping power is now available to me. The wheel and tire upgrade (Ronal R-28 17" x 8.5" Alloy Wheels and Dunlop SP5000 245/45 ZR17s) that I installed have complemented the BIRA upgrade very nicely. I don't have the stats to show before and after braking distances, but I am willing to offer a test ride to demonstrate the eye-opening braking improvement over the factory stock G60 brakes.
The technical expertise of the BIRA members also helped me quickly work through minor brake line installation problems. I have complete confidence in the BIRA organization to continually improve upon this terrific braking system upgrade today and in the future.
95.5 urS6 His (BIRA System 1 Installed AKA REAL BRAKES)
99 A6 Quattro HersHere's Wes's car with the new Ronal R-28 17" x 8.5" wheels: