In the event that you ever wondered what tuners would do when they got their hands on a McLaren MP4-12C, you weren’t alone. For starters, 592 hp seemed restrained for an engine that, even at a small-ish 3.8 liters, made its power with the help of two turbines. And manufacturers play it safe with boost, leaving a lot on the table, so tuners use that advantage to make healthier gains with rewritten maps.
This is a company that builds a few of the most technologically advanced racing cars in the planet and supplied every Formula One team with a standardized ECU a few years back. Zuccone said McLaren’s ECU has a TP10 level of tuning protection, similar to some Mercedes- Benz, VAG, and BMWs he’s labored on, and close to TP12—the highest amount of protection he’s seen to date. Not intimidated, Zuccone said there’s always a way in, because “the OEMs need to be able to update software as per OBDII guidelines. This means ECUs will always have a means to be upgraded. It is simply a matter of figuring out how.”
The first tuning mods for the 12C came in the form of plug-and-play piggyback modules that increased boost and fueling to match. Evolution Motorsports (EVOMS) of Tempe, Arizona, released its EVOMSit Intelligent Engine Control Module in September 2012. Good for 659 hp in Stage One form, this is a 43hp enhance over the conventional 616 (this car had the factory power update). Stage Two, including high-flow cats, brought switch on to 701 hp (measured during the crank) with boost increasing from 2.5 psi to 2.94. But Todd Zuccone, founder and president of EVOMS, wanted to get into the ECU for greater control, not only of boost, but additionally functions such as ignition and fuel settings, launch control, and rev restricting. Naturally, McLaren didn’t want anyone gaining use of the 12C’s brain.
Zuccone admits he’s had some help. In the beginning, he sent out the ECU to have it unlocked. But now everything can be carried out in-house in which he can rewrite an ECU within an hour. The maps in the 12C’s Bosch MED17, he said, had been just like two Bosch maps he’s formerly labored on, so changing things ended up being a mix for the somewhat familiar, plus a bit of learning from mistakes. Access to the ECU allowed Evolution to improve its focus to the engine’s limitations, primarily the two TD04 Mitsubishi turbos. Bolting on a larger pair of turbos is close to impossible because the stock turbos fit so tightly in the motor bay, essentially maxed away as far as housing dimensions are concerned. They are small, quick-spool units that max out at 37 pounds of air per minute and top down around the 700hp limit of this EVOMS Stage Two module.