Audi Sport's incredible on-track drive experience
A wet, blustery Phillip Island in Victoria played venue to the launch of the Audi Sport brand last week with the overcast conditions failing to dampen the enthusiasm of 12 motoring journalists being given a taste of the German manufacturer's adrenalin-jolting experience package.
Now, Audi's enthusiasm for, and excellence in, motorsport predates the Second World War with technologically advanced Grand Prix cars leaving competitors for dust in the 1930s when badged Auto Unions. More recently, some 13 Le Mans victories in the past 15 years tell their own tale of innovation, dedication and above all, passion.
Audi has put the knowledge gained from that history into the development of their road cars, ensuring that motoring enthusiasts, even those who have never put a foot on a racetrack, can still reap the rewards.
Australians have responded in kind to this effort with sales of Audi's R8 and RS line - which make up the Audi Sport range - and the S-line accounting for more than 15% of the brand's sales in this country.
Like BMW's M division and the Mercedes-AMG, the Audi Sport range is all about performance, image and thrills.
By year's end 15 dealerships across the country will feature special Audi Sport corners with specialist staff, display models and merchandise offering an enticing introduction into an elite club.
But above all that, the Audi Sport brand is also about experiences with customers, for a price, of course, able to avail themselves of the expertise of a select group of driving instructors and days out on the track.
Which brings us neatly back to Phillip Island and a day which saw us put the A5, A6, A7, Q5 and the amazing R8 to use on a beautiful 4.2km piece of track that is often rated among the best in the world.
Track work, to be honest, is not my forte. I can hold my own on treacherous road courses, challenging off-road expeditions, even snow and ice… but racetracks, not so much. I blame my littlies really. Before I had them I could ride a rollercoaster all day, but since their arrival, even a ride in a swing is iffy.
Yet, who can pass up Phillip Island? Not me, and expert advice from world-class drivers, a little hand holding during a drake and duck sequence and practical pointers on how to improve turn-in rates and get the best acceleration out of corners made for an unforgettable experience.
It is this type of experience that Audi Sport customers can look forward to - improved skills, greater confidence and just plain fun.
Unfortunately, what they won't get is five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro strapped in next to them. Audi's factory race driver may be retired, but he is still fast. Tummy-turning fast. Three laps with him in the R8 LMS at break-neck speed was priceless, a thrill that will be hard to surpass.