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It’s a superstar supercar on the road, but how does the R8 fare on track?
Should a 611bhp mid-engined supercar make a good track car? Reading that back it sounds like a contender for the easiest question asked since ‘Is F1 more interested in the minutiae of the rules than the racing?’
KY19 NLF has, to date, proved to be a mixed bag on track. Its time has, as I write, been restricted to the first evo track evening of the season at Bedford Autodrome, but the changeable conditions provided the perfect canvas for the R8 to paint me a detailed dynamic picture.
The first half-dozen laps were on a wet track and it took two laps of the Autodrome’s 3.8-mile GT circuit before the first strokes of feedback appeared, allowing me to pick out more detail on what was going on beneath me. Which on a greasy track and a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres struggling to generate any heat, wasn’t a great deal.
Entry to low-speed turns had the front end struggling to find any grip, the steering taking on a lightness that mimicked the City steering setting on a 1999 Fiat Punto. And yet the R8’s quattro drivetrain doesn’t struggle on the exit when you start to feed in the V10’s power – unless you’re reckless with the throttle, that is, then there’s plenty of shuffling and slipping to manage, although this isn’t too much of an issue because the R8 comes to you when it starts to get squirmy.
Mid-speed corners in the same conditions eradicate a large portion of the front-end vagueness on entry, but the transition from grip to slip and back to grip mid-corner isn’t as clearly telegraphed as you would hope for in a car with a 5.2-litre V10 positioned between the bulkhead and rear bumper. It takes a steady throttle and Guinness-smooth steering inputs to avoid a spiky mess of slip when you’d much prefer to be parallel to the circuit’s edge.
It all comes together in the high-speed stuff. Which is reassuring. When you need the utmost commitment from the R8’s front end, you get it, the Pilot Sports finding purchase through the layer of grease, the steering coming back to you, the chassis chatting away. When you need the full processing power of Audi Sport’s engineers, the R8 delivers terabytes of data to your palms and backside.
As conditions dry, the R8’s low- and mid-speed performance up their game, but strangely on the drier surface, at higher speeds, within a handful of laps you feel you’ve experienced everything the R8 has to offer. It feels a little synthesised, a sensation that could be down to our car’s optional #Dynamic-Steering and adaptive dampers, two components that have proved themselves to be great companions on the road. This sounds like a perfect excuse for me to try a non-Performance R8 without such features on track, as per the example that triumphed in our 911 group test in issue 262. Away from the track, the R8’s ability to switch from a supercar that will force your eyeballs out of their sockets when you use as much of its performance as you dare, to a car that could rival a Continental GT for suppleness, refinement and comfort, is showing it to be more at home on the road.
Date acquired April 2019
Total mileage 4423
Mileage this month 1075
Costs this month £0
mpg this month 18.7