So how, then, is the race car that much faster? The simple answer is weight, stiffness and tires — and getting thousands of small details correct.
That engine is still located in the same mid-chassis location, only the all-wheel drive system is removed in favor of rear-wheel drive.
A racing traction control unit allows drivers 12 setting — from fully on to fully off — and a launch control system is optional for series that adopt standing starts. Since 2013, the exhaust system has been slightly rerouted, and gone are the exhaust tips that could swallow a small child.
The Audi “ultra” aluminum space frame chassis saves weight over a comparable steel frame. This technology isn’t exclusive to the R8, though, as even the A8 receives the same treatment.
The body is effectively the same as the production car, although it’s dressed in carbon fiber. It has an enhanced hood with a large vent, carbon wheel arch, bumper (which is the same shape as stock, bar its carbon construction) and splitter.
To homologate the car for GT3 racing, the FIA has a power-to-weight-to-downforce ratio that it imposes to ensure all automakers submit machines that will remain close to one another on track. That figure is not released by the FIA for public consumption, nor is Audi willing to share the exact amount of downforce the car produces.
The suspension components on the front, such as the uprights and double wishbones, are all production quality, down to the road-going Bilstein dampers.
For racing, 370 mm Brembo brakes arrive on the front, slightly bigger than the production V-10’s 365 mm but smaller than the V-10 Plus’ 380 mm.
When Audi’s factory drivers stepped behind the wheel at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, a race they won, the steering column could be adjusted forward, back, up and down, just like in the production car.
It’s here we return to the roll cage, something Audi spent much time and effort developing. Not only must it be incredibly strong and offer a safety-cell for the driver, it also stiffens the car’s chassis.
Audi is particularly proud of the R8 LMS ulta’s removable door and its integrated impact system. Here, within the carbon door, a high-density foam helps protect the driver.
Audi also says its PS1 Protection Seat, which took five months to develop, is one of the safest in the business. Top surgeons consulted with the German automaker to build a seat that minimizes the risk of back issues, compression fractures, neck injuries and more. This, according to Audi, is causing the FIA to potentially ban some aftermarket seats in GT3 unless they can up their game to a similar level.
I’ll be racing the Hawk Performance Audi R8 LMS ultra you see pictured above in November, so check back soon for more on how it drives. If Audi’s performance as the leading GT3-spec racer in the Pirelli World Challenge is anything to go by, it won't lack for speed.