It doesn’t take long to settle into the 2010 Audi R8. It’s a user-friendly supercar, and even with the bigger V10 engine cranking out 386kW, it’s still a pretty easy car to go quick in.
This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s January 2011 issue
But how quick is it? Does that puppy-dog persona make it a tad soft right at the pointy end of things? And how does it go when you line it up against exotic stuff like Lamborghinis, Vipers and Moslers?
Best way to find out, of course, is to race one in the Australian GT Championship. And that’s exactly what Mark Eddy is doing.
The car in question is a factory-built racer called an R8 LMS. Made in batches at the head office and developed by Audi Sport, the LMS is, up close, a pretty special piece of gear. Designed as a GT3 car to run at events like the Nürburgring 24 Hour and a range of European endurance races, Eddy’s Penfold Audi-sponsored LMS is the only car competing outside Europe.
And it’s making its mark in the local GT series. Against the Moslers, Aston Martins, Vipers, Lambos and Porsches that make up the thoroughbred GT field, the LMS has impressed with top-10 finishes at the recent Bathurst round.
In line with GT3 regulations, quite a bit has changed in the transition from road to racetrack.
What's the difference: GT3 racer v the road car
Engine performance has stayed much the same and the gearbox is Audi’s six-speed paddle-shifted sequential manual. But the gearbox is a new design that allows for inspection of the internals through an access hatch, so the tranny can be checked over in situ.
There are bigger radiators to cope with competition speeds in high-ambient temp conditions, it runs on full slicks, and the interior has been stripped out and resembles pretty much any other race-car.
The big change has been the deletion of the car’s quattro all-wheel-drive set-up. GT3 rules forbid all-wheel-drive, so the Eddy LMS is rear-drive, which, if nothing else, makes it a bit more exciting in the wet. Which it kind of was when we showed up at Phillip Island recently.
So, with slick tyres, a slowly drying track and much trepidation, we sallied forth in the jump seat of the Eddy R8.
The first trick is to actually get aboard the mother. You need to climb over and through the roll-cage as well as bend your knee right up under your chin to get your right leg inside without kicking the side window out of the door. Did I also mention the thing’s left-hook?
The next instruction is from the bloke helping bend your knee beyond the traditional 180 degrees, and it’s all to do with not stomping around on the ECU once you’re in. That’s because the magic-box lives on the firewall of the passenger’s footwell; right where you’d brace your feet to steady yourself.
The harness takes some doing (some little bloke must have gone before me), but finally, you’re in, one foot either side of the computer and butt snuggled into the race seat.
Eddy fires up the V10: it’s quick and easy, like the stocker it pretty much is. Even though it’s clearly not a road-legal exhaust, there’s none of the usual assortment of groans, rattles and squeaks you nearly always get with a bare-floored, painted metal cabin.
First clunks home – again, like the stocker – and Eddy points her between the pit exit gates. In no time at all, you’re struck by a couple of things.
First, this is really quite a roomy race-car. You’re a long way from the screen and there’s none of the usual getting-to-know-you bump and grind that goes on between driver and passenger in most caged competition vehicles.
The second is just how civilised and unthreatening this car seems. I’m not exaggerating one bit in suggesting I have and still do own road cars that are noisier and ride sharper than this thing.
Okay, so El Pilote was taking it relatively easy thanks to the lack of grip and Phillip Island’s propensity to suck you into going faster and faster, but I’ll be damned if we couldn’t hold a decent conversation even at full chat.
The other thing to strike me was what a shallow line we were using most of the time. Where most cars dare you to apex late and use the outside kerbs, the LMS was making no such demands. Mark was slipping across to the inside of each corner entry and letting the grip take us around the bend the short – and surprisingly fast – way.
The E-gearbox works far better in a race-car than any road-going critter, too, and you can instantly see why they’re the tranny of choice for the modern race-car engineer. And that motor…
Without the second diff to haul around, it felt even friskier than the already rather playful stock version.
I’d love to tell you that losing all-wheel drive has made it faster/slower/more fun/less grippy, but I can’t. But I sure as hell can tell you that this feels light and agile and if anything is going to keep a Mosler honest on a track, this could be it.
Blast from the past on classic MOTOR
2010 Audi R8 V10 LMS - The Good
01 - More power
Audi says the LMS’s V10 is good for “525hp”, or 391kW, or about 5kW more than the R8 5.2 FSI all-paw road car...
02 - Less weight
...and without the added quattro complexity you get a lighter, rear-drive only rocket-ship. On slick tyres, too
03 - Higher pace
Add proper race-car aero bits (splitter, diffuser, rear wing) and you’ve got yourself a neck-snapping monster
2010 Audi R8 V10 LMS - The Bad
01 - Not cheap
$415K before tax. And that’s before you stick it on a boat bound for Oz. And build a race team to run it
02 - Track only
Though built for GT3 racing, it’s not an answer to Porsche’s GT3 road car. Only used on Sundays, on a circuit
03 - No frills
Fewer interior niceties than a Bangkok sweat shop, and you have to be Gumby to negoitate the roll-cage climbing in
Audi's racey customers
When the GT3-spec R8 LMS race car was first unveiled at the Essen Motor Show in 2008, it marked the beginning of Audi’s customer-based racing program. Basically, rather than enter GT3 races as a factory team, Audi will build cars on request for its motorsport customers to compete in.
Audi’s two front-running DTM teams entered R8 LMSs in this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race, and filled the first four spots on the grid. However, when it came to racing, the Audis fell down the order.
The second item in Audi’s motorsport range, a TT RS racecar, has been tested recently in some German endurance races. It has been jointly developed by Audi AG, its technical division and Quattro GmBH.