Audi’s road to the track
A racing version of the R8 is preparing to hit the GT3 circuit, writes STEPHEN OTTLEY
ONE of the most famous names in sports cars is returning to the track. Audi’s R8 sports prototype dominated sports-car racing for the past 10 years, scoring five Le Mans 24 Hour wins and many series titles around the world.
But the new R8 is different. It’s a racing version of the German company’s R8 road car.
The new racer is built to the FIA GT3 regulations that are designed to keep costs low and maintain strong links between road and track.
The GT3 championship is aimed at amateur racing drivers and Audi will not run a factory program with the car.
‘‘The R8 is the first production Audi bearing the name and genes of a successful racing sports car and is therefore an excellent base from which to build up our first big customer sport program,’’ Audi Motorsport boss Wolfgang Ullrich says.
‘‘Ever since the R8 was unveiled we’ve been inundated with inquiries about a race version. With the Audi R8 we will offer customers a racing sports car equipped with high-quality technology and the typical Audi qualities, but which is nevertheless easy to handle.’’
The car is powered by the road car’s usual V8 engine, which has been tuned to develop about 373kW. Because four-wheel-drive is banned under the GT3 rules the R8 is rearwheel drive and uses a six-speed sequential gearbox.
Audi longtime driver Frank Biela gave the car its initial shakedown test last month and further testing is planned in the next six months before customers get their hands on the car.
The rules for the next-generation FIA GT1 championship are still unclear and Audi has ruled out building a GT1-spec R8.
But Ulrich hasn’t written off the chances of a GT2 class racer.
Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Chevrolet are all committed to the class and are pushing for it to become the world’s premier GT category, in place of GT1.
Getting ready to rumble: the racing version of the Audi R8 road car will have another six months of testing before it goes on sale.