Cars

Race Car Driver For A Day

One of the few downsides of owning a car with decent performance is the limited opportunities to enjoy that aspect of it.

Track days are one way to solve the problem, and driver experience days put on by car manufacturers are possibly the best kind of track days, because they supply the cars to drive.

Heading west of Sydney on the M5 or Greater Western highway we arrived at Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek, for those old enough to remember) for an Audi Sport owners’ experience day, hosted by Audi Australia.

The range of cars assembled on the day starts with the RS3 (RS stands for Rennsport, or, “racing”, in German, and adorns the high-performance variants of the Audi model range) and progresses through the progressively bigger and more powerful (though not necessarily quicker), RS5 and RS6. There’s also a clutch of R8s – seriously quick, but not generally accessible to us amateurs, except for the most basic exercises.

Top-level instruction is supplied by motorsport luminaries Steve Johnson, Luke Youlden, Dean Canto, Daniel Gaunt and chief instructor Steve Pizzati, who between them have competed in something like 60 Bathurst 1000 races, and won a few of them.

Pizzati knows for sure why we’re here: to flog his cars, because we don’t want to flog our own. He tells us the fleet assembled in pitlane is valued at a shade less than $5 million, so take it easy.

Paying close attention to the instructors is an absolute must. From basic things that everyone gets wrong – like seating position, as well as proximity to the steering wheel and how to hold it – to more advanced concepts like how to get the most of ABS braking, these guys know what they’re talking about and you’d be a fool to ignore them.

The day starts with some straight-line braking practice, first at 50km/h and then 110km/h; moves on to some brake-and-steer or emergency lane-changing exercises, at what’s supposed to be 80km/h but quickly creeps above 90; and then some slalom work, discovering a bit about how to combine throttle and steering to keep a car balanced while repeatedly changing direction.

The real objective of the exercise is to learn how to keep your eyes up, and not focus on what’s right in front of you. All of this is in preparation for what everyone has really come here for: fast laps.

If you harboured any secret fantasies about how good you are as a driver, this is when they turn to dust. Barrelling over the top of a crest in a 445KW (600 horsepower) RS6 Avant with an instructor at the wheel, who is steering with one hand while he talks into a two-way radio held in the other and keeps an eye in his review mirror on the cars following him, you quickly recognise the gulf that exists between the average (or below-average driver) and the guys who do it well.

The day leaves us with a fresh appreciation of defensive driving, and of our own limitations of car and driver. The trip home from Eastern Creek feels glacial…but somehow more controlled.

The Audi Sport Owners Experience day is free of cost for new buyers of RS-badged vehicles.

Audi Advanced Driving Experience – $999

Audi Sport Driving Experience – $1500

Audi Sport Pro Driving Experience – $3500

Audi Race Driving Experience – $6800

Audi Ice Driving Experience – $6800 (excluding flight costs and any other travel-related, accommodation-related or other ancillary costs)

Audi Women’s Driving Experience – $500

All prices are for courses only. See Audi Driving Experience website for full details

For more on Sydney Motorsport Park, click here

Feature Image Supplied Via Audi

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