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Audi draws on racing experience for new R8

Despite differences in comfort levels, similarities exist between track and road cars

Published: June 12, 2015, 3:00 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 1:53 PM

The cockpit of the Audi R8 street car bears some similarities to that of the R18 Le Mans racecar. - Audi R8 and R18 cockpit comparison

For anybody who’s ever wondered what racing has to do with the car you drive, Audi is presenting the R-18 e-tron quattro race car in comparison with the upcoming redesigned R8 sports car for 2016.

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For comparison, and on the eve of the race at Le Mans, the company is showcasing the commonalities in their respective cockpits.

First of all, it should be noted that there’s little “wheel” in the race car’s steering wheel. It’s more of a systems-management board that also has a pair of handles that can be used to turn the car’s front wheels. That said, some of the controls on and around the wheel do perform similar functions.

“Motorsport has been a part of our Audi DNA for many decades,” says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Technical Development. “Audi stands for automotive dynamism more than any other brand. This is especially true of our new high-performance Audi R8. Its concept is extremely close to that of a race car – in its controls and displays too.”

The steering wheel in the production car has 20 controls; the racecar has as many as 33. In both cases, though, all the buttons are within a thumb’s reach to allow the driver to keep both hands on the wheel all the time. Shifting gears is performed identically in both cars, using similarly shaped paddles mounted on the back of the wheel and pulled by the right or left fingers, depending on whether the shift selection is up or down, respectively.

Key driving parameters can be set from the wheels at the push of a button — in the race car, there are buttons for individual functions; in the road car, there is a “Drive” control with which to change driving dynamics

In both instances, the instrument display is customizable and changeable on the fly, so the driver gets the information desired as the car is moving. In both cases, colour coded displays indicate if something comes up of which the driver should be aware or that needs immediate action.

The new R8 is expected for deliveries later in the summer of 2015, with variants coming down the pipes into 2016. The new car shares architecture (and some of the profile) with the new Lamborghini Huracan (also a VW Group car) — rear midship V10 engine, all wheel drivetrain — though a highly-modified version of the street car will participate in the GT class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.