Want to experience what it's like to drive Audi's R8 supercar at full-speed on a racetrack? Want to learn driving tips from some of the best instructors in the business? Or do you just want a fun day out?
Whichever you're after, the Audi Driving Experience can provide.
After the obvious dramas of 2020, the German brand has restarted its popular track-based drive days – and it's open to anyone, not just Audi customers. Torquecafe was invited along to experience the program now that it's safe to do so, after it spent 12 months sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The timing couldn't be better for Audi, because not only does 2021 mark the 10th anniversary of the company taking the program in-house, it also returns in the wake of a completely rejuvenated RS line-up. Last year saw Audi introduce new or update versions of the RS3, RS4 Avant, RS5 Coupe and Sportback, RS6 Avant, RS7 Sportback and R8 as well as launching the all-new RSQ8 SUV. The demand for these performance cars are high, with the Audi Sport S and RS models accounting for approximately 20 per cent of the brand's total 2020 sales.
So with the initial pent-up demand satisfied, the return of the Audi Driving Experience is a perfect opportunity to help drive a new wave of sales by giving people a first-hand taste of what Audi Sport is all about.
It's a major operation too, Audi Australia doesn't skimp on things as you'd expect. There are 23 cars in the fleet ranging from the RS3 all the way through to the R8. The total costs of the fleet is more than $5.5 million.
Under the leadership of chief driving instructor, Steve Pizzati (who most will remember from his role on Top Gear Australia), there are 15 former or active racing drivers to guide you through the program – including Nathan Pretty, Chris Pither and Melinda Price.
The time off has allowed Audi and Pizzati to streamline its offerings, losing the racing-based program and instead offering only two options – Dynamic and Sports Pro. The former costs $1250 and involves a morning of exercises to learn or practice skills including drifting and slalom technique, before spending the afternoon lapping the track.
Sports Pro costs $3500 and is focused on track laps in the R8 with one-on-one instruction. Pizzati's preferred method of instructing (both for COVID safety and best developing a driver's ability) is a ‘lead-follow' scenario, with the instructor effectively setting the pace in a lead car while you follow behind in your own R8. Pizzati says this is better than having the instructor in the passenger seat because it forces the driver to think more independently, rather than simply waiting for each instruction. It also probably saves on the nerves of his instructors!
From this writer's point-of-view it's a better option too. You do feel more in control of your own destiny, with the instructors able to slow or speed up depending on your level of skill and comfort. They give you feedback and tips over the radio, so you're getting the kind of instruction you'd get with them besides you – but there's more self-reliance required.
Audi is running a total of 28 days in 2021 at Phillip Island, Sandown, Sydney Motorsport Park and The Bend. There are plans to return to Queensland and Western Australia in the future but current travel restrictions have made it too hard for this year.
The best news is it's not restricted to Audi customers – anyone can sign up. So if you're looking to improve your driving or have fun, this is worth treating yourself. Or it could make a nice present for your revhead family member or friend.
But, be warned, these Audis are addictive and you may find yourself joining the ranks of Audi Sport owners.