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R8 gets racey

8x10 glossy: Audi's R8 customer race car could be V10-powered.

Audi set to produce a race-ready version of its mid-engined R8 supercar

2 Sep 2008

AUDI has created its ultimate performance car in the form of a race-ready GT3 version of the R8 supercar, possibly powered by a V10 engine and with limited production planned for the second half of next year.

It will be the first time that Audi has made a racing sports car available over-the-counter to its customers, but the Ingolstadt company has not yet revealed the price, or the likely production volume.

The car would be a competitive weapon in Australian GT racing and Audi Australia spokesperson Anna Burgdorf told us that the company will be keeping its ears open for any local customer interest, but said it was too early to tell if one will ultimately come here.

Audi has not released much in the way of technical information, apart from the fact that the engine will churn out more than 500 horsepower (373kW).

That leaves us to speculate on whether it will use a development of the current 4.2-litre V8 from the RS4 or Audi’s rumoured new Lamborghini-based 5.2-litre V10, which is tipped for a second-quarter 2009 debut in the regular R8.

Interestingly, Audi has revealed the involvement in the program of the company’s high-tech engine plant, Audi Hungaria Motor in Györ, Hungary – which just happens to be where Audi’s V10 engines are made…

7 center imageFor comparison, the Gallardo GT3 produces 388kW of power and 510Nm of torque while the almost race-ready but still road-legal Porsche 997 GT3 RS – which sells in Australia for $304,400 – produces 305kW and 405Nm from its 3.6-litre flat-six.

Although the standard R8 comes with four-wheel drive, that is prohibited by the FIA GT3 regulations so the race version employs only rear-wheel drive.

Power is transmitted via a newly-developed six-speed sequential sports gearbox – most likely produced by the European division of Australia’s own Holinger Engineering – while the suspension components are claimed to be almost exclusively from the production R8.

German factory driver Frank Biela, 42, who has won the famed Le Mans 24 Hour race five times for Audi as well as the German, French and British touring car titles, conducted much of the prototype testing and had the honour of rolling the car out for its first official photo opportunity.

Racing is in the mid-engined R8’s blood, of course, as it is named after Audi’s breakthrough Le Mans-winning race car, although it physically has more in common with its Lamborghini Gallardo sibling.

The R8 GT3 – developed by Audi Sport under the project name R16 – will take on the GT3 versions of the Gallardo, Porsche 911, Ferrari F430, Aston Martin DB9 and others in various national championships starting with selected races next year, and will ultimately battle for class honours at Le Mans.

The most obvious difference, of course, is a huge rear wing and modified front end to generate the required downforce for the track, while the interior features the requisite safety equipment such as a full roll cage, racing harnesses, carbon-fibre seats and fire extinguisher system.

“The R8 is the first production Audi bearing the name and genes of a successful racing sportscar and is therefore an excellent base from which to build up our first big customer sport programme,” said Audi Motorsport chief Wolfgang Ullrich.

“Ever since the R8 was unveiled, we’ve been inundated with enquiries about a race version.

“With the Audi R8, we will offer customers a racing sportscar equipped with high-calibre technology and the typical Audi qualities, but which is nevertheless easy to handle.”

The R8 GT3 will be built alongside the regular version by Audi’s quattro division in Neckarsulm, Germany.

Audi Sport said that the logistics and factory space required for the GT3 customer program will be created over the next few months and promises the first customer deliveries in the northern autumn of 2009 – one year away.

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