On the track in the RS 3 Sedan's race car sibling - the RS 3 LMS.
19 July, 2017
Although the Audi RS 3 LMS race car is not even a year old, production has already hit 100 cars this month internationally and the popularity of the entry-level touring car continues to grow worldwide.
Building on the tremendous success of the Audi R8 LMS in GT racing worldwide, Audi Sport’s new entry-level TCR race car has likewise proved both enormously popular with teams throughout Europe, America and Asia and has chalked up a string of impressive results since its race debut.
Speaking at the presentation of the 100th Audi RS 3 LMS in Spain this week, Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing said:
“In just its debut season, we have already delivered 90 examples of our race car to customers around the world and have received preorders up to the 100th model. We’re proud that our entry model for touring car racing has gone down so well and that it is already such an important pillar of our model range.”
The Success of the RS 3 LMS is indeed extraordinary. Since the start of the year, Audi customer teams have already contested 125 races on three continents – America, Europe and Asia. They have achieved 73 podiums, including 24 class victories – including the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the 24 hour race in Dubai. The TCR class is a growing international category. So far, 13 series have already been set up worldwide and there are six other circuit championships with classes for TCR models.
No wonder then that there is considerable interest in the one and only Audi RS 3 LMS currently in the country, with numerous parties looking at the car with a view to possibly bringing the mid-sized ‘super sedan’ to Australia in numbers to race.
From the outset, the Audi RS 3 LMS proved a hit with race teams and a resounding success on the track
Pizzati is a big fan of the RS 3 LMS and is very excited at the prospect of a TCR class being added Down Under
The RS 3 LMS certainly made a big impression in Tasmania recently as part of the media launch for its road-going sibling the RS 3 Sedan. The car had also been on hand at the launch of the TT RS at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, but where press at that event were treated to hot laps, journalists at the RS 3 Sedan launch actually got the chance to drive the car for themselves.
This was a tremendous bonus for the press attending the launch event, getting the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of the car which is making such a name for itself in TCR class racing worldwide and could well do the same in Australia if an appropriate racing category can be found.
For Audi’s Chief Driving Instructor, Steve Pizzati, it was a bitter sweet experience, having to sit in the passenger seat and accompany each journalist on their ‘self-propelled’ hot laps of Baskerville Raceway just outside Hobart.
Pizzati is a big fan of the RS 3 LMS and is very excited at the prospect of a TCR class being added Down Under, where he thinks the class will flourish. During earlier evaluation stints at Phillip Island, Pizzati says that the RS 3 LMS impressed not only with its speed and handling on the Grand Prix course, but with its drivability. This he says, is a car that really will appeal across a broad range of potential customers and experience levels.
“It’s a very forgiving set-up,” he says “but offers plenty of scope for the experienced drivers as well.” Getting around Phillip Island as much as two seconds a lap faster than the old 2.0-litre Touring Cars used to do it, the RS 3 LMS is no novelty, but the real thing.
In Tassie, it’s the turn of the motoring press to test the car for themselves, and Steve is there to provide a pre-drive rundown of the relatively simple systems and some sage advice before heading out on to the tight, undulating track. He is also obliged to remain with the car – the only one in the country – to ensure its well-being.
Unlike its road-going sibling, there is no quattro in the RS 3 LMS, which is front-wheel drive. The strict TCR regulations also mean that driver assistance systems are not allowed, no ABS or traction control, and Pizzati is at pains to warn that until the rear tyres have plenty of heat in them, there is a distinct tendency for the car to get ‘tail happy’ if the driver gets too enthusiastic with the throttle.
But far from being ‘agricultural or basic, true to Pizzati’s initial description, the RS 3 LMS is tremendously forgiving with even this extreme novice behind the wheel. The 65kg pressure required for braking is surprisingly easy and the clutch, used to engage first gear at the start and slip back into neutral at the end of the run is almost too light – my excuse at least for the initial stall in the pits.
The assisted steering too is light, and if anything there is a tendency to be too ‘generous’ on steering input. A little bit of lock, you quickly learn, produces a lot of turn in.
But once underway, the RS 3 LMS is a whole lot of fun – for this driver at least – Pizzati’s voice coming through the earphone, sounding strangely strained.
“TURN IN, TURN IN. BUT DON’T OVERSTEER. BRAKE, BRAKE HARD… BACK ON THE THROTTLE.”
After a couple of laps though Pizzati fell silent – possibly reassured that the only RS 3 LMS in the country wasn’t going to exit the track backwards and return to Germany in pieces, or perhaps he’d just lost his voice from shouting into the microphone. Either way, from the driver’s seat it’s easy to understand the massive appeal of a race car that’s this easy to drive and yet has such potential.
Under the TCR regulations, the Audi runs a turbocharged 245kW 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engine, this one mated to a six-speed sequential box. The aggressive bodykit is not only impressive to look at but provides real downforce at speed, although those rear Pirelli P zero slicks still need plenty of heat in them to get the most out of the grip.
Although there is no word as yet on a future TCR series being adopted Down Under, given Australian’s love of motorsport, Melbourne Performance Centre, the company responsible for the local Audi Sport Customer operation is quietly confident and working hard to convince those in power that it would be perfect as part of the Shannons Nationals calendar.
Steve Pizzati certainly agrees and is very much hoping the RS 3 LMS ultimately calls Australia home. If that were to happen, there would also be a good chance it would become part of the Audi Race driving experience as well, but first things first.
From the driver’s seat it’s easy to understand the massive appeal of a race car that’s this easy to drive and yet has such potential
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