Here it is folks, the ultimate weekend warrior. Audi has just announced that beginning late next year, well-heeled customers will be able to purchase a GT3 version of its mighty R8 supercar. That's right: if you've got enough of the folding stuff, you can buy one of these babies and throw yourself right into the production-car based GT3 class of the FIA GT championship - or any other racing series that has similar regulations, for that matter.
So, what's it got? Well for starters much of the interior has made way for a full FIA-friendly rollcage, race seat and fire supression system, while the externally-gated shifter of the standard R8 has been replaced by the stick for a sequential six-speed gearbox.
The Quattro system of the road car has been deleted to satisfy FIA regulations (which forbid the use of four-wheel-drive), so the 373kW+ developed by the GT3 R8's tuned engine is channeled exclusively to the rear tyres. Reprofiled front bodywork and that enormous rear wing and diffuser help increase downforce, but surprisingly the suspension on the GT3 car is largely based upon the production car's standard equipment. Larger air intakes and heat chimneys help keep the R8 cool in the heat of battle.
As Audi have yet to complete development of the car detailed tech specs are still non-existent, but you can count on more information on this hard core R8 surfacing sometime between now and its competition debut in 2009. Pricing too is a mystery, but we're betting that if you're wealthy enough to own a GT3 race team, then the purchase cost of an R8 racing car probably won't trouble you all that much.
Audi develops race version of the R8
* Customer sport programme with the mid-engine sportscar
* First races planned for 2009 season
* Factory driver Frank Biela completes roll-out
Ingolstadt â€“ For the first time, Audi Sport will offer a racing sports car specifically developed for customer use in the form of the powerful 500 hp plus GT3 version of the Audi R8 which will be available from autumn 2009. The logistics and factory space required for the AUDI AG customer programme will be created over the next few months in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm and GyÃ¶r.
"The R8 is the first production Audi bearing the name and genes of a successful racing sportscar and is therefore an excellent base from which to build up our first big customer sport programme," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "Ever since the R8 was unveiled we've been inundated with enquiries about a race version. With the Audi R8 we will offer customers a racing sportscar equipped with high-calibre technology and the typical Audi qualities, but which is nevertheless easy to handle."
The Audi R8 conforms to the production-based GT3 regulations allowing the car to be fielded in numerous national and international race series.
Because the GT3 regulations prohibit the use of four-wheel drive the Audi R8 comes with the typical GT rear-wheel drive. The power is transmitted via a newly developed six-speed sequential sports gearbox. The suspension uses almost exclusively components from the production line. A comprehensive list of safety equipment guarantees the highest-level of passive safety. A modified front end and a large rear-wing generate the required downforce for the race track.
The Audi R8, which bears the project name "R16" within Audi Sport, was developed under the direction of Audi Sport. Mid August, the first prototype successfully completed a roll-out in the hands of Audi factory driver Frank Biela.
The first test races in various European racing series are scheduled for the 2009 season. Delivery to the customers is planned from the autumn of this coming year.
The customer cars are manufactured together by Audi Sport and the quattro GmbH, which is also responsible for production of the Audi R8 street version, and Audi Hungaria Motor Kft. (GyÃ¶r).