A first-hand account of a journo’s thrill, scorching the racetrack on an Audi R8

“You are entrusting your lives with these four men,” Michael Perschke, the man holding the top job in Audi India, tells a group of journalists. With the quartet — instructors Mark Allison, Aditya Patel and Prithveen Rajan and ‘hot drive specialist’ Karun Chandhok — safeguarding what has been entrusted to them, the journos return safely to their laptops to recount the breathtaking experience of driving the powerful Audi R8 V10 around the Madras Motorsports Race Track at Irungattukottai.

As I commute by an 814 cc car, the figures in front of me — a super sports car with a 5,200cc V10 engine that delivers a maximum power output of 525 PS at 8000 rpm and a maximum torque output of 530 Nm at 6500 rpm and accelerates from zero to 100 in 3.9 seconds — and the experience of driving a fast machine on a racetrack don’t quite match my workday reality. But I am not going to be thrown in at the deep end. With patience and skill, the instructors orient us to the machine and the track, taking us through the first level of what is called Audi Sportscar Experience (ASE).

(Over the last weekend, Audi India in association with JK Tyres offered ASE — basic and advanced — to many sports car enthusiasts from South India. Next weekend — October 26 to 28 — it offers Audi Q Drive, the experience of driving its SUVs Q3, Q5 and Q7)

Lessons for the road

The group I am part of takes lessons in handling from Aditya, who takes us through a slalom course. As we weave through the cones employing the ‘six o’ clock nine o’ clock steering technique’, Aditya keeps radioing words of encouragement. “Have faith in the car! You can go faster!” He keeps repeating. As instructions are beamed into the cars through radio sets, the drivers get a sense of having an expert sitting next to them.

Mark offers a tutorial in emergency braking, helping us understand how ABS comes into play in certain situations and reduces the possibilities of skidding and loss of control. Taking turns, each of us has to drive really fast and press the brake pedal as hard as possible and steer around an obstacle of cones kept in an arrangement.

As a driver goes at it, the radio sets in all the cars carry Mark’s throaty commands, “Press on the gas! Press on the gas!” I am among a few who baulk at the thought of stepping on the accelerator pedal and apply the brake much before they have to. Mark is not happy, but is patient and polite.

Finally, we are on to the much-awaited experience — driving the R8 around the race track. We are with Mark, who drives his R8 ahead of us and guides us through. As I do three unforgettable laps at the wheel of an R8, I thank the instructors for helping me realise what this magnificent machine can do.

(For a video, go to http://thne.ws/prince-audi)