After the roaring racing action faded away at Sepang, it was time for a few to experience an exhilarating drive on a closed course.
Perks of the job perhaps? Just over a day after the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race, we and selected Audi customers were beating the Monday blues at the Audi Sportscar Experience.
At our disposal was an entire fleet of Audi R8 V10s, flown in specially from Germany. If that was not enough, we had a team of driving instructors which included Le Mans winner Marco Werner and former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Daryl O’Young and Steve Pizzati, one of Top Gear Australia's hosts!
Then Monday Blues struck back - dark clouds started rolling in, and gave us the infamous Sepang tropical rain storm. Still, no amount of rain will extinguish the deep desire to give the R8 V10 a good beating around the track...
After being grouped, we were first sent off to do a hot lap on the South Track in the Samoa Orange-hot Audi R8 GT. Because of its rarity - with only 333 units to be built - we were not allowed to drive it. With the track still wet from the rain, it was interesting to see what Daryl could do with 560 hp...
Applying opposite lock at turn 12 should give you an idea of how a supercar with semi-slicks handles on a damp track. Nevertheless, the car felt totally planted on the track, even as we were being beaten up by the brutal power delivery. At the hands of a pro, the R8 GT felt incredibly nimble through the turns, be it a racing or sideways entry.
Just a bit more information about the R8 GT: Compared to the non-GT cousin, the car gains 35 extra horses and weighs 100 kilos less, uses lots of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) bits for the body work and has a more aggressive suspension set-up. It roars louder than an angry lion and accelerates like a cheetah. If you want one of these, just prepare S$861,500 and head to the Audi showroom quick, because there will only be five of these on sale here.
The hot lap session over, we were shuffled to our next session - Sector training in an Audi R8 V10. Sepang's North Track was split into two sections: First consisting of turns 1 to 3, with turns 4 to 6 forming the other.
The first section also included a hard braking manoeuvre station, which gave us a good idea of how the R8 feels like through tight corners. Subsequently, when we were being shown around the sections, the trainers were keeping contact with us via radio, showing us the smoothest lines to take through the corners. They also marked the apexes with cones, to help us identify the ideal clipping point.
After the lunch break, it was finally time for the full track session, and we were just raring to go! The only instruction was to keep up with the instructor's car, without overtaking it. While the track was drying up under the blazing sun, there were still several damp stretches which proved a little tricky.
First two turns cleared and yours truly put the power down on the third corner: A long right sweeper. The rear of the R8 started to swing out. Before we started gloating about how great we were at catching the drift and getting back into line, the R8's four wheel drive system soon got us sorted.
At this point of time, we began to fully appreciate the full capabilities of the R8 on the track. We may have driven it before on the roads, but unleashing it onto a track was a totally new experience. While it is no where near the R8 GT, it still delivers a stunning performance as the V10 roared just behind our right ear.
We may get some flak for doing this on the track but we there throwing silly things at the R8 after the fifth lap, such as turning in really late, braking mid-corner and pushing unnecessarily hard out on the exit. The R8 V10 felt amused, but not excited by all of these, taking all the punishment we could throw at it and carving through the corners without a hint of over-dramatization.
As the day drew to a close and we settled back into civilization, we joined the rest of the participants in receiving course completion certificates. It may be a piece of paper, but the memories it evokes till this day is nothing short of magical!