Cadwell is one of my favourite circuits in the UK and it is a good place to test the R8 and get a baseline for how it’s driving and highlight any issues I may have. As it was the first trackday in the car, I wanted to trailer it. Whilst driving to the circuit and back is something we’ll be doing in the future, trailering it allowed me to take a few spares, some tools and a second set of wheels.

 

Due to courier issues the tyres didn’t arrive until Tuesday but my local tyre place was able to fit and balance them as well as clone the TPMS sensors from the existing wheels. This means I can swap the wheels and the car will think it’s the same set so won’t throw tyre pressure errors. The R8 can only have a limited number of sensors registered, so cloning the existing ones into the new wheels is the best way to sort it.

For the road and when it’s wet on track I’ll be running Michelin PS4S in 245/35R19 on the front and 305/30R19 on the rear. In the dry I have a set of Michelin Cup2 in the same sizes. I’ll be ordering a set of 18″ wheels in the future so I can run used Porsche slicks (£20ea) and a set of A052’s but for the next few trackdays I’ll be sticking to these, more progressive tyres.

 

I’d fitted the toolbox to the front of the trailer and I expected this would cause issues with the car being mid engined. Sure enough, even with the R8 almost touching, the tilt bed wouldn’t lower. The weight of the engine and gearbox on the back of the car was too high to balance. If you tried towing like this, the trailer would snake from side to side, not only is it awful to tow, it’s dangerous.

 

Even tilted, the front of the car would have touched the floor without the extra planks of wood to lift the wheels.

 

Reversed on and the trailer is much better balanced. I’ll be moving the box further forwards on a new bracket assembly which should allow me to drive on forwards.

 

Took a couple of hours to get to Cadwell, towed without a problem. Being on backwards isn’t particularly aerodynamic, but it still averaged 24mpg. That’s about usual, on a long run with no tyre rack I can get 27mpg if I drive carefully or get slipstream from lorries. With tyre rack and no slipstream, I usually average 21 to 23mpg.

 

I’d fitted a completely standard rear silencer which has the secondary cats installed and it tested 101db static with valves open. You would never run them on track valves closed, the backpressure from the restrictive route would cause engine issues.

The marshall also made me remove the passenger facing incar camera, apparently it’s a new thing that they are enforcing, with no prior warning to any customers or the organiser of the day. Brilliant.

Lou jumped in with me for the sighting laps and then we went straight out for a couple more. The first thing I noticed was the seating position. With a helmet it’s awful. I’m tall and with a helmet my head hits the headlining even with the seat fully lowered. This meant I had to recline the seat so I didn’t hit the roof, but then my arms were too far away, so I had to move the seat forwards so I could reach the steering wheel. Oh, that means my legs are now too close and I have to bend them.

Overall it made the driving ergonomics just a bit weird. An aftermarket seat was already on the list, but by the end of the first 2 laps I knew it was going straight to the top. The fact they are leather seats and I had to grip the steering wheel to hold myself inplace means watching the video back later is painful. But, that’s what this day was about, learning the car and finding areas I need to improve.

Back into the pits with huge smiles from Lou and I.

 

After a brief stoppage, Andy came out for a session. At the end of the outlap I saw Rob Baxter at the top of the mountain, so next lap round I HAD to get air..

Andy looked at me and said “I thought you said you were taking it easy and learning the car. That wasn’t taking it easy”
‘Yeah, but Rob’s there and he won’t be later. I wanted to see if I got 4 wheels off the ground…’

Rob nailed it.

 

I did it again the next lap before Andy started telling me to behave…

 

We spent the next several laps learning what the car was doing. I was able to Heel & Toe well enough. Occasionally I flared the revs too much, partly because it spins up so quickly and partly because of the seating position. The brakes were superb, especially for the first few laps. I could get the ABS to kick in if I tried really hard, but the car is extremely stable under hard braking even with a bumpy surface.

The steering response is immediate and offers a very nice turn in, although it feels a bit too light at high speed. Perhaps that’s just something I will get used to. There was a delay after turning into a corner and the front tyres biting, that’s simply because I’m used to slicks or track tyres which have stiffer sidewalls, these aren’t as suited and the sidewall flex caused a damping of the steering inputs.

Hall bends highlighted it most, it’s a sequence of several corners with direction change between each one and there is a pause in how I can transition from one direction to the other, especially compared to the Golf. I found this was where I was losing most time to quicker cars on the day.

 

After 15 minutes the brakes were getting hot and the tyres were struggling. We decided it was a good opportunity to swap to the Cup2`s rather than destroy the PS4S as the forecast rain hadn’t arrived.

 

With the car in the air, I always give it a quick check whilst the wheels are off. I spotted some fluid on the wheelarch liner !

 

It was obviously brake fluid but I couldn’t see where. The caliper and lines were bone dry.

 

Then I found it. When flushing the brake fluid I’d overfilled the reservoir and as it heated up it had expanded and overflowed a little, this had run down the trim and the air turbulence from the wheel had thrown it against the liner. Crisis averted !

 

Back out on the Cup2`s and as they were brand new I wanted to warm them up slowly, so avoided any kerbs and hard cornering or braking for 2 laps. I still worked them, otherwise you’d never warm them up but I did it gently. The difference in steering feel was instant, turning into Coppice was much better and I could position the car more accurately. I still felt change of direction was sluggish and we could feel the outer front tyre loading up and struggling. Geo changes with more negative camber and new dampers should help.

 

We could feel the tyres getting warm so came in. Up from 35 Cold to 42 Hot on this one, up to 45 on the front left.

 

Another session and I tried to reduce the gearchanges. I actually did a full lap in 4th so I could fully concentrate on feeling what the car is doing. Andy and I both noticed a similar sensation. When coming off the throttle sharply, the weight would transfer to the front causing quite a change in the pitch of the car and the rear would feel unstable. Not ‘oh my god we’re going to crash’ unstable, but a definate feeling that it wasn’t as planted as expected.

Stiffening the damping by pressing the sport button helped, it certainly reduced the amount of dive but didn’t completely eradicate it.

By lifting off with a smoother right foot, this was reduced but still there. I’ve spoken to Ricky at REPerformance since and he explained it’s the magride dampers, they do this when they are worn. It’s a good job the Ohlins are ordered then !

 

Rob Baxter was out taking photos, the conditions were ideal and I must admit, I do like how the car looks in these pictures !

 

Andy and I tried with the dampers on normal or hard. The amount of body roll is tiny, even with everything on road settings it doesn’t roll a great deal at all. I knew this was going to be the case from seeing other R8`s on track in the past.

The engine has a lot of torque. That seems like a blindingly obvious comment. But I’m used to Turbo cars or smaller capacity N/A engines. I found I was revving this much more than it really needed, later in the day I was taking the mountain and Hall bends in 3rd instead of 2nd and looking at the data afterwards, it made almost no difference. I guess that’s what a 5.2Litre engine gives you.

 

The 2 rectangles you can just see underneath the car, directly below the numberplate are actually ducts to feed cold air into specific area around the exhaust. The whole floor is flat, apart from a small exposed part of the underside of the engine which I assume is to help temperatures.

 

I was getting more comfortable driving it and at this point I heard Andy’s voice from the passenger seat “Nige, you’re getting too close to the floppies….”

Ooops.

 

Here are 2 laps from after lunch, you can see from the data traces I’d been out for several laps, cooled everything down then started pushing again.

 

I was really pleased with how accurately I was able to place the car. The steering feedback was precise and small inputs allowed minor line adjustments mid corner. There is a still an inherent desire to understeer which I know is down to the standard alignment. Some Toe out on the front and increased front and rear camber will help the steering and also tyre life.

I keep mentioning tyre life. They aren’t cheap and whilst I get used to the car I’m sticking with road tyres. They are more progressive than a track tyre or slick, but can be overheated quicker. It would be easy to really lean on the outer tyre and get the front to bite but I will be getting the alignment redone in a few weeks so I was conscious of not wearing out the outer edge on my first day in the car. That meant I drove it a little different to how I expect to in the future, I waited until after the apex before starting to feed in the power as I wound off steering lock. It’s not the quickest way nor how I’ll drive it in future but as you’ll find with this project, even though it may not seem it, budget IS a concern and I can’t simply burn through a set of tyres every trackday !

 

When I saw Rob at the bottom of the mountain, I just HAD to get air again. I made a specific point of sacrificing the right hander at the bottom to ensure I went over the top with the steering wheel straight. The usual line carries more speed, but you are airborne with some right hand lock which is not ideal.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what the laptimes are like compared to the Golf. My quickest lap was 5 seconds slower than the Golf and the optimal was 4 seconds slower. Considering the Golf was on Slicks at the time I’m pleasantly surprised. The R8 is never going to be a full on trackcar, so for it to be that close on Day 1 around a circuit that doesn’t play to it’s strengths is excellent. If it was Silverstone I’d expect it to be closer.

At the end of the day, I dont mind. It’s about the whole experience of the car, driving it on the road and the on track, so far it’s putting a massive tick in both those boxes.

 

The traction control is a pain. Audi decided that if you go over 100mph, you need it turning back on. Regardless of how long you press the button, every single time you exceed 100mph, it re-enables it. I don’t want this, the T/C is intrusive at times and applies the brakes when I don’t want it to. This not only affects the way the car drives but also puts extra heat into the already stressed brake pads. I believe I’ve found a mapper who is able to map this out.

I tried some trail braking into the corner onto Park straight. In the Golf this is very useful to rotate the car by applying a little bit of brake on corner entry, this digs the front in and simulates a pull on the handbrake which obviously causes a big slide. This is a much reduced version of that and something I’ve done for years without thinking. It’s a fine tuning tool that takes some getting used to but when you do can aid certain corners.

I tried it in the R8. This car wants to rotate quickly ! Even with a small application of left foot braking to rotate the rear, it started sliding almost immediately. Not enough to be a problem, but enough to remind me that inputs have to be finessed much more and built up to as my experience grows.

Andy suggested I left foot brake more, as the gear ratios are tall, I can leave it in one gear and concentrate on throttle and steering inputs. By not having to change gear, this frees up my left foot to LFB, which is something I’ve tried and failed to do in the Golf. Unfortunately, the compromised seating position meant I started getting cramp in my left leg after only 1 lap so I had to abandon it for today, but I will definitely practice when I have the new seats.

 

Would it be a proper trackday report without me having some sort of issue?

This was something that looking back could have been avoided. Driving onto Park Straight Lou and I felt a grumble from the rear left and heard a noise. I immediately slowed down and stayed right. There is an exit on the outside going round Chris Curve, so I pulled across and exited through the gate as I thought we had a slow puncture. The TPMS system was in alarm all day so that didn’t tell me anything.

Driving slowly back to the paddock I felt the rear make a loud clunk and stopped immediately.

The rear wheel was loose !

After fetching the Jack and tightening it back up I drove slowly back to the trailer and parked it up. It was 10 minutes before the end of the day so I lost almost zero tracktime. The worry was why. What had happened ??

 

It didn’t take long to work it out. The wheels had been powdercoated and the bolt seats hadn’t been fully cleaned. On the road this isn’t a problem, the wheels and brakes don’t get hot enough to cause a problem. I had this on the Golf years ago when I bought some new wheels and a similar thing happened but I’d forgotten all about it as once cleaned, they never loosened again.

I’ll clean up the seats and then this won’t be a problem although I do expect to check the bolts more frequently in future until I’m confident they aren’t loosening over time.

 

Strapped onto the trailer ready to drive home. I averaged 7.8MPG, which is about what I get with the Golf.

Overall the day was a massive success, whilst the seating position was something I didn’t realise would be such a big deal, nothing else popped up that needs attention. I already knew about the brakes, oil temp and T/C and plans are already in place to sort those.

I was driving to go on track mid afternoon and was thinking to myself ‘This is MY car’ I still find myself thinking that. It’s always been an aspirational car but I didn’t think I’d ever own one, never mind take it on track and drive it as hard as I did.

Driving it and even looking at it makes me very happy indeed. Do I think this was the right choice ? Yes, absolutely.

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