Have you ever wondered what it’s like behind the wheel of your favorite racecars? You’re not alone! I’m here to pull back the curtain by sharing my experience driving a TCR Audi RS3 LMS in the 2020 Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring.
Walking up to the car for the first time, it becomes immediately obvious how wide it is. Pictures don’t fully convey just how massive those boxy fender flares are. You have to mind your feet getting in and out of the car to avoid stepping on the side skirts – not so simple during a mid-race driver change!
Once in the car, the next thing you notice is the unique seating position. The dashboard feels strangely distant as you realize the seat is as far rearward as possible for ideal weight distribution. Fortunately, the steering wheel and pedals are perfectly placed, helping you quickly acclimate to the cockpit. That “butterfly”-style wheel houses 11 buttons, although only the pit speed limiter was necessary for our race. I tried the fan, but weakly blown ambient air did not provide the cooling effect I hoped for.
Yeah yeah yeah, but what’s it like to DRIVE?! In short, it’s a well—mannered compromise. Whoever decided on the TCR formula to route 300+ horsepower through the front wheels was a deranged character after my own heart. Aggressive throttle inputs are met with wheelspin and torque steer. The DSG gearbox, common with VW-Audi road cars, is a sweetheart. The wild fenders, aggressive splitter, and swan neck wing produce noticeable downforce. The brakes take a massive effort to operate, but once familiar, they haul the car down quickly. The end result is a unique animal that must be driven as a momentum car with the throttle sensitivity of a Mustang leaving a Cars and Coffee.
Over time, racers get a sense of approximately what speed is appropriate for a corner. The TCR car constantly challenged my calibration as the aero begged to be leaned on more and more. A good corner means braking late, trusting the aero to stick as you turn in, carrying trailing brake to the apex as the rear end just starts to rotate at a surprisingly high minimum speed, transitioning to throttle, and toeing the line of forward momentum and torque steer as you squeeze the loud pedal. Get that right 17 times in a row and you’ll complete a lap of Sebring in less than 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
I've now had the blessing of driving in IMSA and SRO America. Curious to hear more about those experiences? Check out some of my other posts!