The fast lane
Distilled adrenalin – Audi Australia launches the new Audi driving experience for 2019.
Audi S and RS models across the board, new courses and course structures take the Audi driving experience to even greater heights in 2019.
27 March, 2019
You’ve braked a metre too late, and the RS 3 Sportback hasn’t slowed enough for the hard tight turn on the drenched Phillip Island skidpan
Damn, damn, DAMN! You’ve braked a metre too late, and the RS 3 Sportback hasn’t slowed enough for the hard tight turn on the drenched Phillip Island skidpan. My RS 3 consequently slides a little wide, losing precious time. We’re doing a hectic motorkhana around a snaking, slightly bewildering, course marked by witches’ hats. It’s not easy, even cursing while you’re grinning is tough … Everything’s a blur. Even with the electronic stability control left on, finding the right mix of speed, placement and – the key to a fast time – is tricky, and I’ve just overdone on the optimism. I vow to improve on the next run.
The motorkhana is an exciting ingredient of the one of three tiers in the popular Audi driving experience (ADE) offerings. Re-structured for 2019, the driving experience program is now equipped with a refreshed fleet made up exclusively of the elite Audi Sport models, including the RS 3, RS 4, RS 5, TT RS, R8 and SQ7.
We’re tackling the new entry-level one-day Dynamic course, the intent of which is to teach both novice and experienced drivers significant road skills, whilst also getting the chance to be fully acquainted with the wonderful technology present in every Audi. The icing on the cake is cutting loose on a racing circuit.
Glorious Phillip Island Raceway is undoubtedly Australia’s premier permanent motor racing venue. This morning the usually spectacular Island scenery is disguised by a fine mist of rain, but four seasons in a day is not uncommon. Regardless of weather the ADE show goes on, here or at other key venues in five states of Australia and now in Austria and Sweden. More on these later…
The 2019 ADE programs reflect the evolving Audi performance model line-up. There can’t be a better way to get familiar with the stunning active safety gear inherent in Audi quattro models. Owners frequently complete these courses enthusing that they would never have imagined ‘their’ Audi could so safely and capably complete the stunning manoeuvres they experience in one day at the track.
The 2019 ADE programs reflect the evolving Audi performance model line-up
Steve Pizzati, a man with unnatural reserves of enthusiasm, energy and 20 years of experience in the job
Because the courses are not limited to Audi owners and their families, curious drivers of other brands often do the Audi course to discover what the fuss is about or perhaps as a serious sampler taken as a precursor to trading up. On any day, all the punters get to push hard in a generous collection of S and RS variants. These choices expand further should a customer wish to move up the driving experience totem to the Pro Sport level and then perhaps on to the race program for one-on one coaching in the magnificent R8 LMS GT supercar.
The Audi driving experience instructing team is led by Steve Pizzati, a man with unnatural reserves of enthusiasm, energy and 20 years of experience in the job. He is supported by a bunch of mainly race drivers who have collectively tallied more than 100 Bathurst 1000 starts. Some have won championships, and class victories in the Bathurst 12 Hour. More importantly, they seem to know how to distil into simple words the weird vagaries of car dynamics and the physiology of driving… ‘heads up, look forward…eyes on where you want the car to go’.
Victorian participants have the choice of Phillip Island or Melbourne’s suburban Sandown Raceway. West Aussies get to use Barbagallo Raceway, South Aussies use the impressive new facility called The Bend., Sydney Motorsport Park is popular with those from New South Wales, and Queenslanders head to the Mount Cotton Driving Centre.
Phillip Island is a favourite and understandably so. The fine mist deters no-one. There’s a braking and obstacle avoidance exercise from 110km/h to get everyone in the mood, and then, switching to racy RS 5s, we’re into a tricky and fast slalom run, a rollicking blast down the course, a tight U-turn, and then back before hard-braking into a pretend garage. I use the throttle with the steering to encourage it to change direction through the zig-zags. It responds delightfully. The extraordinary grip levels bring on a wave of exuberance and then I discover the light rain does have an effect on adhesion. Newton’s third law will get you every time.
Then off to the aforementioned slippery skid pan, before heading to Phillip Island’s Turn Three for some cornering coaching. We’re told by our instructors that we shouldn’t try to use too much throttle and steering simultaneously. In turns, we head at serious pace into the sharp right-hander, brake confidently to activate the ABS, turn firmly and lightly re-engage the accelerator, only regaining full throttle at the very late apex. Initially, there’s a tendency to brake too early, and some of us also get back on the accelerator too hard and too early, resulting in a messy exit. Flamboyant, but a tad slow. But we all smooth things out, and leave the scene sensing we’ve getting the hang of things.
Initially, there’s a tendency to brake too early, and some of us also get back on the accelerator too hard and too early
“I’m not going to make you drive at 60km/h if I sense you can handle 260 competently”
After a luxurious lunch, the afternoon program centres exclusively on guided lapping of the full track, a follow-the-leader activity which allows the punters to put into play all the new skills collected earlier. Pizzati spells out the rules. “We’ll be leading and you follow our wheel tracks accurately, without artistic interpretation. It’s about placing the car in the right places on the track. Eyes up.
“Accuracy and smoothness is what we’re looking for,” says the man who has driven more than 20,000 laps of Phillip Island.
There’s a further incentive. “I’m not going to make you drive at 60km/h if I sense you can handle 260 competently,” declares Pizzati, who then cautions to leave the stability control switched on. “RS models are all tuned so that ESP won’t intrude unless things go pear-shaped.”
The RS 3 first, then RS 5 and finally the fast-accelerating TT RS. Three extremely quick and competent machines, each with their own personalities. And exhaust sounds.
With the sun now beaming down, the day concludes with Pizzati and the pro racers taking punters for hot laps. I’m interested in the reaction from one mild mannered middle-aged businessman and Audi owner, a gent who has barely said a word all day. But not now. Climbing out of a RS 6 ride car after a couple of sizzling laps as a passenger, he erupts volubly into a burst of endorsement of what he has just experienced, shaking his head in disbelief. Suddenly he sprints off to ask how he can sign up for the next Sport Pro program. Which just happened to be the following day! Lucky him; there was one place left.
More dream drives
Australians can also expand their Audi driving experience to two different winter courses on ice, on special tracks in Seefeld, Austria and snow-laced Arvidsjaur in Sweden, just a few kilometres south of the Arctic Circle.
Available for the first time too for those with a passport and sense of adventure is a mid-year (northern summer) four-day Audi R8 Spyder European Tour through Germany, Austria and Italy.
This top-down tour starts in Munich and is headed by Audi chief driving instructor, Steve Pizzati. After training at the world class Audi driving experience centre in Neuburg, the real road driving begins on some of the best driving roads in Europe.
In 2019 the Audi driving experience offers new 'bucket list' programs like the Audi R8 Spyder European Tour through Germany, Austria and Italy
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