AUDI Sportscar Experience: 2017 pre-production German-Spec R8 V10 Keri Potipcoe I’m a last minute addition to Audi’s all-new sportscar experience. The automaker’s pilot program saw three stops in Canada this year, each at a national-level track in Audi’s two top sporstcars, RS 7s and R8s. I arrive to a massive white-tented driver’s lounge and classroom at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Audis line the walk to the front door, including two 2017 pre-production German-spec R8s, oh hi hi. I sign in and put my lanyard around my neck, pardon? Wow, yes, I’d love a made-to-order omelette thanks. It’s important to note before continuing – this isn’t a media event, it’s a public one. The 20 attendees are owners and enthusiasts who wish to experience the R8 in its ideal environment. I’m the only auto journalist. We move to the classroom, sinking into cushy white armchairs facing a monitor. Our instructor review’s the day’s itinerary and how to make the most of it, including braking and acceleration techniques, handling tips, and how so much of racing comes down to vision. I’m furiously taking notes because our instructor is Scott Goodyear, one of Canada’s most decorated racers of all time. He introduces us to the other instructors, all of similar caliber, and then it’s, “off you go to the cars everyone.” We sprint passed the helmets and out the door to the waiting vehicles. The 2015 RS 7’s V8 outputs 560 hp and 516 lb.ft. of torque to an 8-speed tiptronic transmission, while the 2015 R8 5.2 L 7-speed S tronic puts down 525 hp and 391 lb.ft. The morning will be spent putting them through a series of four exercises, split evenly between the two models. I’m partnered with a pilot who owns a 2012 R8, and in we climb into the cabin and set off to station #1. The track has been divided into segments, each designed to highlight a different skill. At each station is a set of instructors, with the lead one tied to the radio that’s in our backseat. Through the exercise, switch cars, through again, switch cars, like that. It’s fast paced and efficient, maximizing the amount of seat time. Plus I get to drive backwards around Mosport come ON. At every opportunity I power down the window, “where can I improve, why does whatever keep happening?” The quality of instruction is maybe the best part of this experience, so I’m a bit of a pest, trying to soak up as much as possible. Goodyear adjusted by seating by an inch, and it improved my preciseness and shaved off time. Through the slalom course and the radio pipes up, “Keri that was out of a text book…” I fist pump, “ until the last cone.” Argh, laugh and slap the steering wheel. Fourth exercise done, it’s confirmed I’m still Queen of the Late Brakers, now it’s time for lunch. A small aside to my classmates here – I don’t usually eat like a vacuum cleaner, sorry about that. But I had to make time to photograph the cars. Especially the 2017 pre-production Audi R8 V10 Plus, it has to be extensively documented. It won’t even make it’s Canadian debut for another 6 months. It has laser headlights. LASERS. The interior is all new, there’s about another 50 hp, and Audi’s new Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster is inside. I’m clicking away – an engine photo, the racecar inspired steering wheel and RECARO seat upgrade – when an instructor approaches, “you excited to take this out this afternoon, Keri?” My head snaps up, “I get to _drive_ this?” There are four of these in Canada, and I may be the only auto journalist to climb behind the wheel. It’ll reach 0 – 100 km/h in 3 seconds, and this environment will encourage me to try and make it do that. At this point my feet stop touching the ground The afternoon schedule is lead-follow around the track, 20 minutes at a time while swapping cars and drivers as before. Put your foot down and there’s power no matter the revs, and the 2017 feels like it has more grip than the outgoing model. The instructors feel it’s better balanced than the 2015, with more power, better brakes and better overall. I hit 210 km/h! I don’t come close to reaching the car’s capabilities, proven by the day’s final event – a hot lap around the track with Canada’s most winning driver, Richard Spenard. Audi is expanding this sportscar experience next year, keep an eye on the website URL for new stops. It’s a small sized class with high-end instructors encouraging you to push it, so do like I did and return the car reeking of tires and brakes – every – single – time.