German car manufacturer Audi has been organising several customer experience events for years now. One such event is the Audi Sportscar Experience (ASE) which enables participants to enhance their driving skills and discover the capabilities of various performance models. It is conducted on various race tracks across different countries like the Nürburgring, EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany, Barcelona (Spain), Spa (Belgium), Salzburgring (Austria) and even Dubai. In India, ASE was in its seventh edition this year and there couldn't have been a better place for Audi than the Buddh International Circuit to showcase their fleet of the most powerful cars. We were there for the event last weekend to push the cars around the track under the watchful eye of professional race driver and coach Aditya Patel. Here is how it went.
The whole idea behind the ASE is to make the participants understand, learn and experience the high speed handling of cars. To start off, we were put in the Audi RS5 and taken on the track to get familiarised. We followed the lead car from which Aditya gave instructions through the walkie. He guided us on how to take corners while pointing at the turning points or when to step on the accelerator and power out, and also most importantly, the braking points. Most of the time was spent in following how to go around the track in a safe and controlled way. But, there were also a few instances where we were allowed to let loose and experience what under-steer and over-steer is. The RS5's instant throttle response is good enough for it to gather pace and travel insanely fast. Unfortunately, my time with the RS5 was short-lived. Nonetheless, a very exciting outing altogether.
Then, thankfully I got some time in the more powerful Audi R8 LMX. It can very well provide a very comfy and less-demanding day out. But, that day wasn't exactly the one! I was too excited to hear the strong sound of the fabulous 562bhp V10 5.2-litre petrol engine. As I stepped into the cabin, I switched to the Sports mode to open the exhaust flaps and pinned the throttle for a chesty roar. If this car's sweet scream at its power peak doesn't excite you, I don't know what will! Unlike the RS5, this R8 provided plenty of light throttle jerks as I scurried through the paddle shifts of the seven-speed automatic gearbox. Nonetheless, I saw Audi's claim of this vehicle doing 0-100kmph in 3.4 seconds turn into reality as I went down BIC's long straight.
The highest figure I can remember seeing on the speedo is 230kmph just before I got goosebumps trying to brake after the crest closing in the right-hander. The carbon-ceramic brakes helped drop the anchor, while the meaty and grippy tyres helped the car hold on even through the corners quite easily. However, it didn't quite provide a lot of 'wow' moments like the RS5 did and I really wished I could take that beauty out on the track again.
Slalom and handling course
This challenge was a great introduction to the Audi RS7 and RS6 Avant's performance on an intelligently set up road course with cones. We were supposed to put the ESP off and go about the track without hitting the cones to avoid penalties. The lap was timed so we had to be as quick as possible. After the instructor-driven demo lap, I set out in the RS6 to floor it straight into the first left followed by a quick right which then opened into a left hander onto a skid pad. I was too fast here and the car only under-steered as I managed to get its nose straight back towards the slalom. After this zig-zag course we had to brake hard into the final checkbox. One lap wasn't enough to go around the track perfectly, but thankfully I got a hang of it. It showed up when I went around in the RS7 smoothly with its rear stepping out on the skid pad. As the car slided I managed to counter-steer and bring it back in the right position and blasted through the slalom. I clearly felt I did better and the lap time also confirmed that.
Of course, a few hours and several laps at the track won't make anyone a race car driver. However, it surely does give you an opportunity to push the car to its limits, know your fears and make you aware of your capabilities to handle a car. ASE not only helped me enhance and refine my driving skills behind the wheel of an Audi, but also walk away as a far more confident driver.