It’s taken a little longer than ideal, but finally the Audi S1 has had some track time.
Audi’s mini hot hatch mightn’t be an obvious track day choice, but it’s potent enough to need a circuit to unleash its full potential. The venue is a freshly resurfaced Winton, and the newly laid hotmix has had a surprisingly dramatic effect on our most frequented track.
The biggest change is the deletion of virtually every bump. The hump before turn one where the old track joins the new? Gone. The tricky indent mid-way round the fearsome sweeper? History. The rippled tarmac approaching turn 11 that required a deft touch on the brakes?
Eradicated, though thankfully there are signs it will return in time. Bumps add challenge and character to a racetrack, and their disappearance is an unfortunate consequence of any resurfacing work. No doubt the V8 Supercar blokes love it, though.
Nonetheless, the new Winton still offers plenty of challenges. Weekly ‘Test ’n’ Tune’ days attract a wide variety of machinery and on this busy day the S1 shared the track with everything from a roofless Nissan NX (don’t ask) and Toyota 86s testing for the upcoming race series, to a Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car.
A number of attendees were keen on exploring what Winton’s infield had to offer too, dragging dirt and dust onto the track, which always makes things exciting. Maybe they were just trying to make the S1 – more traditionally known as a rally car – feel at home.
The resurfacing has also led to the reprofiling of many of Winton’s 12 turns. The changes are subtle, but in general the corners are a little shallower and the exits a little wider, which means the track is now quicker.
Exactly how much quicker is difficult to say, but given the S1’s best time at last year’s Bang For Your Bucks was a 1:44.1sec in the hands of Warren Luff and I managed a best of 1:42.9sec on the new surface, it’s fair to say a good few seconds have been shaved from a circuit of Winton.
One factor working in my favour was our long-termer’s optional 18-inch wheels, which bring with them 10mm wider tyres, 225/40s replacing the 215/40s that wrap the standard 17s.
Despite the extra footprint, however, it’s tyres that are the S1’s biggest handicap on track. The Bridgestone Potenza S001s held up well to an afternoon of hot laps, but there’s the feeling the S1’s chassis would have more to offer on even higher performance rubber.
It feels agile and playful in faster corners, the rear edging wide on corner entry to ease the load on the front tyres – which can be very exciting in the middle of Winton’s fourth-gear sweeper – but in Winton’s slow turns the front end lacks bite. That’s another way of saying the driver lacks patience, but with stickier tyres commitment, rather than patience, would be rewarded. What does work well in the slower stuff is the S1’s engine.
Its broad spread of torque makes third every bit as effective as second in hauling the Audi’s 1340kg out of tight corners, and while it fades a little at the top end, it always feels plenty quick, topping out at about 170km/h approaching turn one.
Stamina is often a problem for road cars on track, but completing a cool down lap between each hot lap allowed the S1 to stay fairly fresh. The temperature gauge didn’t budge all day, the brakes hung in there – though were emitting some pretty loud groans by day’s end – and the tyres still had plenty of life left.
At this price point there are more appropriate track day tools, cars like the Renault Sport Megane or Subaru WRX STI offer more outright entertainment, but if you have an S1 and find yourself at the circuit, you’re certainly not going to be bored.
Liked: Hot lapping all afternoon long
Disliked: Understeer; getting mugged by faster cars
Favourite moment: For some reason the S1 simply loved going sideways around turn nine
Fuel this month: 10.3L/100km
Distance this month: 806.2km
Want to see more of our Audi S1 long-termer? Check out the below: