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Take the slow road, says race driver

All about the bends: Former formula one test pilot and Audi test driver Markus Winkelhock says straight-line speed isn't everything.

German test pilot for Audi’s latest R8 says it’s not all about top speeds

Audi logo22 Mar 2013

THE chief test driver for Audi’s potent, fresh faced R8 has some sage advice for Australian buyers cursing the nation’s punitive road rules – it’s not all about the top speed.

Former formula one test pilot, DTM driver and winner of the 2012 GT1 World Championship, Markus Winkelhock, was in Australia this week to help German luxury car-maker Audi launch its svelte, mid-engined two-door supercar.

The car company had taken over the Phillip Island racetrack to put the aluminium-bodied car through its paces, although it will be crawling along city roads where the R8 will spend almost all of its time.

“I think this problem you will have all over the world except Germany,” Mr Winkelhock said.

“But it’s not all about top speed, you know. It’s also about cruising, having fun and enjoying the car.

“It’s not all about cornering or the top speed on the straight.”

Asked if Australia needed a public racetrack similar to Germany’s Nurburgring – a tricky 21 kilometre ribbon of Armco-lined, ripple-stripped tarmac near the western coast of the country – Mr Winkelhock wasn’t so sure.

“I think you have really nice racetracks here open in Australia,” he said. “(Nurburgring) is actually quite cheap, I think about 16 euros ($A20). But the problem with the Nordschleife is you have no run-off area, so there is a big risk if you go off.

“On a racetrack, there’s less risk.”

Mr Winkelhock said even German drivers had few opportunities to tap the flat-out potential of their cars.

“In Germany, you know, on the freeways there is no top speed, but most of the time there is too much traffic to go really quick,” he said.

“So I think most of the customers, more or less, enjoy the cars on the country roads driving around the corners rather than just going fast in a straight line.”

The Audi R8 launch was not Mr Winkelhock’s first visit here, either.

He came here for the Australian Grand Prix in 2006 and ‘07, although both times he missed out on a shot in the pilot’s seat.

“There was too much politics and money in formula one,” he said. “I like what I’m doing now, which is real racing.”

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