Audi’s road to the track

A racing ver­sion of the R8 is pre­par­ing to hit the GT3 cir­cuit, writes STEPHEN OTTLEY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

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.

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