Driving a Supercar at the Green Hell
Now that Audi invited me to drive a lap in a true Audi R8 on the Nürburgring, (that’s right, the “Grüne Hölle”!) I have a confession to make. I might be editor at sportauto but I do video, not the driving. Looking at my history of car ownership I might not be the right person to handle this R8 “challenge”. The fastest car I owned was a Peugeot 405 from 1994. If you look up “slow” In a dictionary, there is a picture of that car with it. I’m not sure of the top speed it had but i wasn’t brave enough to go near it anyway.
It’s a beautiful day at the Nürburgring and I’m thrilled to see the line up of brightly colored Audi R8 ready to hit the track. Excited I get into a yellow one. When it’s time to go, I get seriously confused. My old 405 had about 5 buttons in total but at least 4 didn’t do anything noticeable. The working button was on the radio, which is essential when driving slow. But this R8 had a scary amount of buttons, and most of them located on the steering wheel.
Pushing “start” seems to make sense and when I push it I get the expected result. Behind me I hear a gentle V10 grumble sound. The super nice electronic dashboard tells me to go into driving mode, which is a good suggestion. But it doesn’t say how. After shifting several handles and pushing more buttons the car starts moving. Backwards. Brake! I study and push more buttons and frown. A little throttle and suddenly I go forward, smooth as butter. A little dial on the steering wheel turns up volume of a 1920’s jazz band, so the radio works. It seems a perfect sound track for the Grüne Hölle… If you don’t speak German, it means green hell.
That hell doesn’t look scary at first. It’s a beautiful day and I enjoy the ride in this car that has at least 6 times the horsepower and over double the cylinders of my now demolished 405. With reasonable but safe speed I take a few corners. Then I see a long stretch down, continuing uphill. Behind it I suspect there is a corner but it’s invisible. It’s clear view, not too curvy, the right moment to push the throttle! And so I push it way down.
The engine roars, my passenger shouts. The R8 shoots ahead like a bullet, a sensation I never had before. Track stewerds wave flags, in the corner of my eye I see the camping people getting their BBQ’s ready for the upcoming 24 hours race. No time to watch as the end of the stretch is approaching fast. The faster we go, the narrower the track seems to be. I’m too scared to check the speedometer but don’t want to be a chicken and keep pushing the pedal down. The blind corner is now approaching alarmingly fast. This car doesn’t slow down at all uphill, it simply goes faster and faster. Race fans have written things on the tarmac but with this speed it’s all a blur. I’m now running out of road that I can actually see. I know the invisible corner is somewhere behind there and I very quickly need to brake. Brake hard. My passenger shouts again.
A happy grin on my face. A more wry grin on my passenger’s face.
It feels good that I didn’t lose control with my perfect driving capabilities! Or was it the million of electronic driver aids and the four-wheel drive this car has. Or the alarm bell in my head that told me not to overdo it..
The Audi R8 is a really wonderful car to drive. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much. And it’s super easy too (once you found the ‘drive’ setting on the gear lever.). Today the green hell was a wonderful green play garden for me. Perfect weather, and a perfect car. The Audi is born in Germany and clearly feels much at home here. And it certainly made me feel welcome too.