Lately, the Longhorn Racing Academy (LRA) has been up to some really exciting things. Their start, a few years back, was initially at Harris Hill offering folks an opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of their supercars to have a go around the track.
These days, they are being invited by the Circuit of the Americas team to run many events involving their cars: either “ride-alongs” or actually having guests drive the LRA cars out on the track. From what it looks like, this is just the beginning.
Bobby Epstein, the founder of COTA, happens to love the GT3 and takes it out for a spin each time the LRA team shows up.
The LRA fleet is normally parked at Harris Hill Road but doing these events at COTA means having to drive these cars back and forth as needed. What a pain it must be to drive around town in cars like the Ferrari F430, GTR, Porsche GT3, Viper, R8, Cayman R…
These guys really must hate their jobs!
And because they must hate it so much, I volunteered myself to take one of their cars from Harris Hill to COTA. Nobody should have to be expected to constantly drive these cars back and forth. Being the charitable person that I am, I decided to provide some much needed relief to the team.
Of course, I’m joking. Who wouldn’t have a blast driving these cars as much as humanly possible?
Varun kindly allowed me to drive their 2009 Audi R8 from Harris Hill to COTA and back to Harris Hill for one of their events.
Where is the button to open the hood?
The first thing I wanted to do when I got inside the car was to pop the hood open…but I couldn’t find the button or the latch! Where was it??
I then began to initiate my superior sleuthing skills to scour the entire cabin to find this mysterious button or switch that would open up the hood.
Finally, after some time, I located the tiny button which happened to be hiding behind the driver’s side seatbelt.
I never thought I’d feel such a huge sense of accomplishment once I found it.
The LRA R8 had an aftermarket Milltek sport exhaust which sounded incredible. I’ve been in R8s before but the stock exhaust is so muted that it really does a disservice to the car.
The LRA V8 on the other hand sounded exactly like the car should have sounded straight from the factory. What a difference the sound made! Check out the video to see what I mean.
Even though there’s not much room inside the small 2-door coupe, since the dash swoops away from you, there’s an airy and open feeling inside the car.
I liked that the dash layout was still relatively simple. Having been in newer cars lately, I was expecting the R8 to have tons of electronics and gadgetry, but then I realized – wait a minute, 2009 was actually 6 years ago!
That’s not to say that the R8 didn’t have creature comforts: there were plenty.
You have things like a media center (that admittedly looked dated), wireless connectivity, heated seats, heated mirrors – you know, things you would find in a Kia these days.
My job on this day was to take this amazing beast of a machine from one race track to another.
How R-tronic works
What threw me off initially about this car was its R-tronic transmission. The shifting was slow, seemingly imprecise and very jerky. I almost thought something was broken.
I didn’t realize this at first, but after googling “why does the R8 automatic suck so bad”, I found out that the R-tronic transmission is basically a manual transmission without the clutch. This results in experiencing a good amount of lag and lurching in between gearshifts.
There are ways to counteract this but it took me a while to figure out. You have let up on the throttle in between gear changes and I found it better to use the paddles because you can shift when you want to. This is important because the more you can simulate a standard transmission when driving this car, but the better it behaves.
It was kind of a weird concept because everything felt like a stick-shift except for the lack of a clutch. The car was basically pushing in the clutch for you.
In sport mode, the auto was more responsive, but you still have to watch the throttle application so that you can experience smoother shifts.
So here is what I would recommend. Get the manual version! It would likely be a much more fun and enjoyable experience.
LRA at COTA
When we got there with the R8 and a couple other cars, we spent some time initially arranging the LRA fleet in order to provide the maximum amount of viewing pleasure to the guests that were arriving.
This reminded me of when I was a kid and would play with toy hot wheels cars, rearrange them and pretend that they were real cars in a car show.
Boy, have times changed. Grown adults (actually I’m not sure if I would consider myself an adult yet) playing with big boy toys!
After a fun-filled day of ride-alongs and the guests driving the cars on the track, it was time to take the cars back to their home.
It was quite a view, sitting in the R8…ready to leave the track. COTA is such a fun place to be, especially in the pit lane area.
The owner of this fantastic looking 991 Turbo S headed back to Harris Hill and so I decided follow him back in the R8.
Needless to say, I didn’t even attempt to keep up with the Turbo S because it was super quick. I loved watching it being driven though. 0-60 mph in 2 point something seconds kicking up all kinds of dust and dirt behind as it left me far behind.
Even though the R8 didn’t have quite the same speed or acceleration, it was still so much fun to drive. The mid-mounted engine meant that the R8 was extremely stable and poised and with 420 hp delivered to all the wheels simultaneously – it was more than enough to provide a thoroughly satisfying driving experience.
Oh…is that a sharp turn coming up? No problem, I think I’ll just turn the steering wheel and not really worry about slowing down.
It is so composed and in control the entire time, that you could actually get away with driving like an idiot and probably not lose control of the car.
Not that I’m condoning such driving in any way.
The R8 might not be the fastest car around the track but it sure is super easy to drive on regular roads. You have enough luxuries to keep you happy and the ride, although firm, is totally acceptable for long road trips.
Surprisingly, a 2009 R8 is priced around $85K which is lower than I would have expected. It’s still out of reach for most of us but $85K seems like a very reasonable price for a supercar like this!
It was tough to say goodbye to the R8 but I know that I’ll be back. It’s like a drug – I just can’t get enough!