x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Superfast Audi R8 is ideal for the track, legal for the road

Audi has taken information garnered from racing the R* and put them in a street legal car.

Audi R8 GT has two levels of track-orientated options.
Audi R8 GT has two levels of track-orientated options.

Audi has reacted to calls to sharpen its R8 with a faster, more-powerful, track-focused stormer capable of 320kph. The R8 GT, unveiled at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix on May 1, has taken the weight-saving, aerodynamic and suspension lessons Audi has learned racing the R8 in Europe and translated them into a road car. While it will only build 333 of the 560 horsepower (412kW) rockets, they will each hammer to 100kph in 3.6 seconds and will hit 200 kph in just 10.8. That makes its 100kph sprint time 0.3 seconds faster than the standard R8 V10 and 0.4 faster than Porsche's benchmark 911 GT3 RS.

Audi insists its lightweight drive has helped it pull 100kg out of the R8 V10 to create the GT, even as it has lifted the power out of the 5.2-litre V10 by 26kW. Developed to be somewhere between its R8 LMS race car and the standard V10, the GT has picked up aerodynamic aids, including its fixed carbon-fibre rear wing, a deeper chin splitter and tell-tale winglets on the front corners to prevent front-end lift at high speed. While it has more downforce, Audi claims the drag co-efficient is unchanged at 0.36, an equation that makes more sense when you see how much smaller the carbon-covered wing mirrors have become.

At ?193,000 (Dh 900,310) in Germany, in its standard form, the R8 GT has two full levels of track-oriented options, including one approved for both the road and the racetrack with a bolt-in roll cage, fire extinguisher and electrical kill switch and another with a full roll cage and a standard four-point safety harness. Yet while Audi has pulled the GT's weight down to 1,525kg from the R8 V10's 1625, the R8's sibling, the Lamborghini Gallardo, need not worry yet. Lamborghini's lightweight version of the Gallardo, the LP570-4 Superleggera, is a full 185kg lighter than the R8 GT, tipping the scales at just 1,340kg. While Lamborghini only found 70kg to take out of the standard LP-560-4, the lower number is largely because Lamborghini incorporated several of the first-generation Superleggera's weight-saving measures into the standard Gallardo's facelift.

Much of the extra weight comes because Audi refuses to ask its customers to make the interior comfort compromises demanded by the Superleggera's bare-bones, carbon-covered cabin. Instead, the standard R8 GT still has carpets, Alcantara trim, a Bang and Olufsen sound system, a CD player and even satellite navigation. All the all-wheel drive GTs will come with the computer-controlled six-speed gearbox, and each will have its build number engraved on top of the heavily sculpted, aluminium shift lever. Which still shifts the wrong way.

Based around the already-light 210kg aluminium-space frame chassis and body, Audi has found all manner of tricks to pull weight out of the car, including thinner body panels, thinner windscreen glass, and a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) rear bumper. The big weight savings include CFRP seat shells (31.5kg), a new battery (9.5kg), thinner, lighter carpets (7.9kg), a CFRP rear hatch (6.6kg) and aluminium brake caps (4kg).

Audi hasn't neglected the suspension or handling, either. The car's viscous-coupled all-wheel drive system will normally run just 15 percent of the drive to the front wheels, but is capable of shifting that to 30 percent whenever necessary. It's also helped enormously by a mechanical limited slip differential that can run 25 per cent lock-up on acceleration and 40 per cent on the overrun. Audi has also fitted the GT with a ride-height system that can drop the body 10mm on its springs at the turn of a switch, but there is also a combination of stiffer springs and dampers and more camber on all four wheels.

The wheels are unique to the GT, too. They are forged, 19-inch alloys with their own, forked design, which both save weight and house 235/35 front tyres and 295/30 rears. There's an option for wider, 305/30 ZR19 rear rubber as well. The ESP system has been tweaked so that the Sport setting now allows for comfortable, exuberant oversteer in complete safety, while the entire system can be turned off at will.

There are standard carbon-ceramic brake discs and the GT gets its own red, anodized alloy six-piston brake calipers to clamp the 380mm discs. The car has been three years in the making, largely because it was never in Audi's model plans originally. Its customers, though, have been asking it for a version of the R8 to take on Porsche's 911 GT3 RS, with enough breadth of ability to sprint around the track but to still be legal to drive home afterwards.