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4 July 2017

We've been behind the wheel and under the skin of the Audi RS3 LMS racer

By Peter AndersonPeter Anderson
  • What's an Audi RS3 LMS? This bad boy. What's an Audi RS3 LMS? This bad boy.
  • The car is 10cm wider than the road car. The car is 10cm wider than the road car.
  • The body panels are switched out for carbon fibre and fibreglass with some steel panels left. The body panels are switched out for carbon fibre and fibreglass with some steel panels left.
  • The wheels are smaller at 18-inches but are 10-inches wide. The wheels are smaller at 18-inches but are 10-inches wide.

What's an Audi RS3 LMS?

This bad boy. Designed to race in a new category called TCR (Touring Car Racing), the RS3 is one of the first things we saw from the newly-named Audi Sport under ex-Lamborghini CEO Stefan Winkelman. I first saw it at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, never thought I'd get to drive it. Seems reasonable, I'm not a racing driver.

How different is it to the road car?

Audi Sport starts with the standard shell and rips everything out, including the engine. The car is 10cm wider than the road car. The engine is a less powerful 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo driving only the front wheels. It's slower to 100km/h (4.5 vs 4.1 for the road car) and there are no driver aids. Max speed is "just" 240km/h, but you get there quickly and it's rock solid once you're there.

The body panels are switched out for carbon fibre and fibreglass with some steel panels left. But not many.

  • There's a lot of safety cage to thread yourself through to get in. There's a lot of safety cage to thread yourself through to get in.
  • you sit very, very low in the driver's seat and you can pull remove the steering wheel to make entry and exit easier. you sit very, very low in the driver's seat and you can pull remove the steering wheel to make entry and exit easier.

There's a lot of safety cage to thread yourself through to get in and you sit very, very low in the driver's seat and you can pull remove the steering wheel to make entry and exit easier.

Whether you go for the six-speed sequential manual or the twin-clutch semi-auto (yes, even Audi race cars have options...), there are three pedals sprouting from the floor. In the semi-auto, you only need the clutch to get moving. That big lever is a handbrake rather than a gear selector. In this twin-clutch equipped racer, the plastic paddles are glued on to the shifters. Cut touch.

That massive rear wing doubled as a coffee tray during a chat about the car from Steve Pizzatti. The wheels are smaller at 18-inches but are 10-inches wide and they hide a set of huge steel brakes.

The engine is a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo driving only the front wheels. The engine is a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo driving only the front wheels.

What's it like to drive?

Well. Glad you asked. Because I actually got a go. Full race gear, including HANS device, but Audi wisely sent me out with a chaperone, Supercars driver Luke Youlden, to guide me around Hobart's Baskerville track. It was nerve-wracking. It's hard to see out, I'd only done four laps of the track in a right hand drive car I could actually see out of (excuses, excuses - Ed)...you get the picture.

But it was awesome. Slick tyres, semi-automatic transmission and a solid pre-drive briefing from Steve and I was away. Well, twice - I stalled it. Once I was out on track and worked out that Luke's advice was mostly "Get on it, go faster!" I realised it was absurdly easy to handle. Not that I could ever go as quickly as Luke or even a rubbish race driver - but it wasn't at all scary at the moderate speeds I managed.

  • What's it like to drive? Well. Glad you asked. What's it like to drive? Well. Glad you asked.
  • That massive rear wing doubled as a coffee tray during a chat about the car from Steve Pizzatti. That massive rear wing doubled as a coffee tray during a chat about the car from Steve Pizzatti.
  • As a race car, it's extraordinarily civilised. As a race car, it's extraordinarily civilised.
  • It was enormous fun and a big challenge. It was enormous fun and a big challenge.

The brakes need a very hearty shove - minimum 50kg - but other than that, it was all about being smooth. Luke had very kindly warmed up the tyres for me which meant I had tons more grip than talent. The second lap was much smoother and quicker, and I was able to listen to Luke's instructions without automatically thinking, "You're kidding, right?"

As a race car, it's extraordinarily civilised. If you keep your foot in, the gears shift home super fast with just a light jolt rather than like, say, a Lamborghini Aventador's spine-cricking shove. The brakes need a heap of effort but are easy to manage without locking.

It was enormous fun and a big challenge - learning to drive the car by feel, soft on the steering, hard on the brakes. And, as ever, reminded me how much better race drivers are compared to us mere mortals.

What racer would you love to take for a lap? Tell us what you think in the comments below.