Barcelona Audi RS4 Driving Experience (Circuit de Catalunya)
I am sitting in my silver RS4 waiting in queue in the pit area for my turn to go on the track solo. Finally, it is my turn. Sepp waves the checkered flag for me. I put the car on the first gear and, almost forgetting, I quickly press the S button on the F-1 style steering wheel, before I release the clutch. The bolster seat closes up to give me more support for the upcoming high G-force turns, the burble of the engine exhaust gets louder as the car releases its inhibition and makes all mighty raw 420 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque available to me. My body is pressed against the Recaro bucket sport seat as I am accelerating effortlessly the second I leave the pit area to 90 mph in no time. Shifting to second and third gears, I savor every second of this exhilarating launch; the moment I have been waiting eagerly since I arrived in Barcelona two days ago...
After two laps pushing the limits of my driving skill, I am able to comfortably follow the suggested best line for this circuit cleanly. I am reaching 140 mph on the longest straight stretch in front of the main podium and pit before it is time to slow down for the chicane. All of the sudden as I am passing the finish line at this high speed, the gray clouds that have been hovering above the circuit on and off through out the day release their omnipotent force dropping giant droplets of water. I quickly perform the mental and brain calculation on how much I should slow down to enter the fast approaching and very wet chicane. As I am doing this, the rain pours harder, pounding the black asphalt. The water gushes down steady and thick from the now black clouds. When I see the giant water droplets pockmarking the sheet of water on the asphalt like pebbles, I know I am way too fast to come into the chicane. The black markings on the guard rails and the walls at the end of this long straight stretch remind me of the near death experiences that have occurred here...
The ABS clicking sound snaps me back from my brief trip in the memory lane. I am now hydroplaning towards the end of the runway. I have to turn now smoothly if I want to not miss the first apex. But I know I am too fast for any smooth turning and I am having images in my head of the car plowing through the gravel zone and scrapping the barrier because of understeer. Then, I remember the lesson from the previous day on how to induce oversteer on a all wheel-drive car. Thatīs the only safe option I can think of at this adrenaline pumping moment. And I hope that the ESP will help me correcting the oversteer. Since it is very wet, and I am still trying to slow my heartbeat down from the acrobatic act, and I donīt want to come into the next turn too hot again, I apply the accelerator half as much as I would have in dry condition. The 60/40 (rear/front) Quattro silently works its magic behind the scene to put the right amount of power on each wheel. The 4.2 V8 FSI burbles confidently. The sonorous and refined throaty sound announces how much power the engine has effortlessly applied to the wheels and how much more Herculean power I can have whenever I wish it without requiring me to look at the tachometer...
After these adrenaline pumping maneuvers, I adjust my speed for this very slippery condition so that I can have my best line through the circuit. After two more laps through the long and short straight stretches, chicane, switchbacks, decreasing radius turns, sweeping half circle turns, and hairpin turns with elevation changes I gain more confident driving in this Quattro weather. Going through switchbacks and hairpins is a very sublime experience. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) expands the outside suspensions and contracts the inside suspensions to keep the car level, tight, and confident in going through the abrupt changes in momentum. The rain has not let up. I progressively increase my speed and pull back slightly when I stray of my line. I learn from Audi Driving Experience that getting the fastest lap time is not about having the most power or being the most aggressive. It is about Zen, patient, balance, and smoothness. And of course never forgetting the laws of physics as no one on earth can defy them, just yet...
We all come from many different background, but yet we feel that our passion for driving and Audi cars brought us together. The students are from America (California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Colorado), Puerto Rico, and Latvia. The seasoned instructors (Altfrid Heger, Sepp Haider, Markus Fiechtl-Kerschner), the hard-working and caring mechanics (Alexander Heel, Helmut Schalk), and the attentive host (Alexandra Hase) are from Germany and Austria. Despite the short time we have together, our same passion brings us so close that many of us are making plans to meet again at other Audi Driving Experience events (Finland, Sweden, and Nurburgring), as well as to visit each other in different countries!
I will remember the Barcelona RS4 Audi Driving Experience not only for its intoxicating and exhilarating track times, but also for the people I encountered, the places we visited and stayed, the food and culture I experienced. I joined this event to simulate the life of a DTM driver. Instead, through the Audi Driving Experience, I found the reality of genuine, fun, learning, social, and cultural experiences. It is also a lot more cost effective than the cryogenic procedure to preserve my body till 2256 for the holodeck experience...