Early morning flights may be usually frowned upon, but then it’s not every day that you get a call asking if you’d be interested to come to the Buddh International Circuit and drive Audi’s range of performance machinery flat-out. By the time I make it to the abode of the Indian Grand Prix located in Greater Noida, I have been awake for seven hours, from the time that alarm went off in what seemed like the middle of night. At this point, the only thing that keeps me awake are visions of being strapped into a supercar, hurtling along the 1.1-km long back straight at speeds I can’t even fathom on public roads.
The Audi Sportscar Experience promises this and much more, and getting a chance to push cars like the R8 and the lunatic RS7 in a controlled environment is just a part of it. As easy and accessible as Audi’s quattro-equipped performance cars are to drive, the sheer amount of horsepower can still get you into trouble rather quickly, even on a track layout as generous as BIC's. A set of expert driver coaches, along with Audi India prodigy Aditya Patel being at hand to guide the participants was no bad thing.
The briefing covered basics of vehicle dynamics and some basic technical information, and then it was time to hit the track. Luckily for us, the pièce de résistance of the experience was not saved for the last, but was served immediately. The new Audi R8 V10 Plus, all 610 hp and its clever quattro system was ours for the taking. This second-gen R8’s quattro system allows for almost all the power to the rear wheels if required – something I was eager to experience within the safe confines of a nice, wide racetrack with loads of run-off.
In a convoy of three cars led by the very experienced Rayomand Banajee, an aggressive lead and chase format of hot laps followed. Despite the Buddh Circuit being quite familiar to me, having marker cones at braking, turn-in and exit points helped us stick to the right lines as corners come up quite quickly in the R8. Braking too late and accelerating too early is something you don’t want to do in a 610hp rocket ship.
As long as the basics are in place, the R8 flatters your skill and goads you into going even faster; while cruelly making you aware that you’re not even scratching the surface of its capability. With his experience, Banajee in the lead was extremely clued-up to what was going on behind him and adjusted his pace to allow the following drivers to push as hard as possible while keeping things from going awry. Too much overenthusiasm could still lead to theatrics despite all the quattro wizardry. Physics is physics after all!
After a few fast laps in the R8 at what seemed like warp speeds, we pulled into the pits and then it was time for an entirely different exercise – the art of oversteer. We’re not taking about lurid triple-digit speed powerslides leaving black lines behind, but low-speed manoeuvres which place emphasis on precise throttle and steering control. The tool of choice for this exercise was the 550hp RS7 Sportback. The tarmac was soaked with plenty of water and under close scrutiny of Banajee, it was go time.
The exercise was simple enough: build up to about 20kph, turn the steering full lock, floor the throttle to the floor and once the car starts to oversteer, try to control it for as long as possible without being spit out the other way. The RS7 behaved like a rear-drive sedan when provoked in this manner and managing throttle modulation with the right amount of steering angle could really allow you to transition into a smooth power drift.
Experiences like these are invaluable, especially for customers who own these powerful machines and given our deplorable road conditions, consistent training and car control exercises are a must to ensure that the all this performance is deployed in a safe manner. They also help make better drivers as you learn to react to emergency road situations in a more voluntary and calculated manner. For all of this, that early morning flight is definitely worth it.