Sparesbox Blog

My Quest For The Best Performance Brake Pads

By Leon Saliba

Mon Jun 29 2020

As anyone who has taken their car to the track knows, the first thing that goes are the brakes… usually ending your session early and leaving you with boiled fluid and scored rotors to deal with. As much as we all might be chasing more power on the track, it often equals more problems when it comes to brakes. If your daily driver is a Golf R like mine is, you definitely have more problems when it comes to stopping than you do with getting going.


First, what’s been done to my Golf R 7.5? It’s running an X-Force Varex exhaust, BMC panel filter and RacingLine Stage 2 engine and DSG tune. The good news: this is good for about 290kW with mostly bolt-on mods. The bad news: Golf Mk7 brakes are renowned to suck, and the car is generally under-braked from standard. How do I know? I smashed a set of pads at the Queensland raceway in about 3 laps on the recent Bullrush Rally. But in fairness to the pads, my driving probably also sucks.


I spoke to some well-known VW tuners at the Bathurst 12HR who confirmed my suspicions. If I’m wanting to hit the track regularly I really need a big brake upgrade kit. My first thought was ‘well, that seems like an expensive and painful solution to my problems, so let’s try some more attainable options first.’


The Golf R Mk7.5 is fat and heavy with poor airflow to the rotors, so it’s going to put the brakes under serious stress on track. I wondered what are my options to try first, without going over the top? Well, I could always brake softer. It was an obvious, yet lame solution… Nah, I don't think so. 

There’s the basic upgraded rotors, pads and fluid. Usually, this yields a surprisingly good result for most road cars, even race cars. The Sparesbox Alfa Romeo (my other, other race car) runs stock callipers with standard-size Tarox slotted rotors and Pagid Racing Endurance pads/Castrol RST fluid, and the brake performance is just amazing for race hour after race hour. 

The thing with the Alfa though, is that we pulled about 150kg of weight out of the car and it only has 115kW of power, so it’s a bit of a different situation. As a side note, we get around 20 hours of racing from a single set of endurance Pagid Racing pads and regularly overtake cars under brakes. 

On my 750kg Peugeot 205which is also strippedI ran EBC Green pads for years and drove them hard without any issues. The basic formula here is more power, more weight, more momentum, more braking... but I’m not about to strip my daily drive of creature comforts or sound deadening just so I can brake better. So I set out on a mission to find the best upgrade for my brakes.


Brakes Stage 1:

My first track experience with the Golf R was with a completely stock car at Sydney Motorsport Park and let me say, ‘don’t bother’. It truly sucked. Brakes, suspension, everything felt fat, heavy and lazy... except the engine which rips. Then the Sparesbox team got it on the hoist and fitted H&R Springs, Superpro forged suspension arms, top mounts and sway bars, GFB blowoff valve, OZ Racing wheels, Michelin Pilot Cup Sport tyres, DBA 2 piece rotors, DBA XP performance pads and Castrol racing brake fluid. 

On the street, this really transformed the Golf’s handling and braking. The DBA 2 piece brake rotors are a very nice piece of kit and my favourite visual mod to the car. They have aluminium hats for reduced unsprung mass and improved heat dissipation, as well as DBA T3 high carbon slotted rotors to take a pounding on track. 

The pad material was orange DBA XP [DB8849XP] designed for street and track cross-over. Out of the box, these pads offered great feel, low noise and great stopping power over the OE compound. I can comfortably recommend these pads for hard street driving, or even for track on lightweight cars. When they’re pushed to their limits on track though, they quickly go past their operating temperature window. The brake heat paint markings indicated the rotors exceeded 750 degrees celsius so it’s entirely understandable a street pad isn’t suited to that kind of punishment.


Brakes Stage 2:

It's always tempting to ‘over-spec’ pad material and choose a compound for higher heat ranges, but it’s a tradeoff however you slice it. There’s no ‘perfect’ pad material and choosing a compound that suits your driving style most of the time is usually the best place to start when upgrading your brake pads. Admitting defeat on my first upgrade attempt (but not wanting to go for a full big brake upgrade just yet) I decided to maximize the stock calliper setup with Goodridge braided lines, Winmax W3 pads and a flush with new Castrol Racing Fluid.


For those unfamiliar with Winmax, they’re a specialist Japanese braking company dating back to 1960. Primarily focused on racing applications Winmax make a range of high-performance friction materials ranging from the W1 street compounds to the W7 for pro circuit applications. Since I wanted a street/track cross over pad I opted for the mid-range W3 which promised low noise but effective stopping at up to 600 degrees with a friction coefficient of 0.34 – 0.37. The performance/usability trade-off can be seen below:

I put them to the test at the Whiteline Tarmac Rally Sprint and they performed well above my expectations (except when I nearly hit the fence – but I’ll put my hand up for that one). Selecting pads for tarmac rally can be challenging; pads need to be up to temperature from cold and run hot all the way over 600 degrees! If I wasn’t looking to daily drive the car and only use it on track I could have gone for a higher heat range material, but decided the cold stopping and low noise of the W3 made sense for what I was after.

Below, you can see the kind of performance of the different pad sets at varying temperatures:

The Winmax W3 pads stopped with huge initial bite, virtually from cold, and didn’t fade even when pulling up repeatedly on high-speed sections. These pads really do offer a great compromise between everyday usability and on track braking performance, even on my bloated and overpowered Golf R. Around town they are very easy to live with, quiet, and relatively low-dust for a performance pad. These are a must if you’re looking for the next step up in braking performance but still need to daily the car.


The next step up for the Golf is the race/rally designed Circo M119 compound. These pads should stretch the Golf’s braking capacity for heavy-duty track work where temps will see over 750 degrees but may not be suited for everyday use with a working range of 50 – 800 degrees. The friction coefficient is ridiculously high and very stable at 0.48 – 0.51 as you can see in the chart below:

If they are as useable day to day as the Winmax W3 pads then they’ll be a great all-round option for any hard-driven Golf R or Golf GTI, without the crazy cost of a big brake kit! 

Both pad compounds come in a wide range of applications – suitable for a wide range of driving conditions and needs. If you can’t see yours on the site, we’ve got a dedicated team of customer experience pros to make sure you get your hands on the upgrade kit that suits you. 

If you can’t see yours on the site just ask!