I’d like to say that the supercar came of age with the R8. Sure we’ve had Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches for ages; it’s even documented that as far back as the thirties, JRD Tata competed in drag races down Marine Drive in his Bugatti. But it was the Audi R8 that really put the supercar on the Indian map, both for enthusiasts and posers. Over the past eight years, and between the V8 and V10, it has become the best-selling supercar in the country, clocking well over 150 units. And it’s also the supercar that got Indian automotive journalists comfortable with the genre.
Put it in a corner and it asks for more revs to show its impressive handling
Not that we hadn’t driven exotics before. I’d completed my rite of passage before audi had even made a supercar, ticking off both the Ferrari-in-the-hills-above-Modena and Ferrari-at-Fiorano pilgrimages. My nerve-endings had been short circuited, grey cells overwhelmed by the ghosts of history, eyeballs punched into their sockets by early launch control. And I hadn’t known true terror till the tail of that 430 wagged and my brain overloaded and ctrl-alt-deleted.
But it was the R8 that we really drove, and it drove us to brush up our wheelsmanship. Insulated from an exhaustingly exotic badge on the nose, it was the car we pushed to the limits to understand what mid-engined cars can, and cannot, do. A small bunch of us journalists still talk about our first experience with the R8 eight years ago, an entire day of performance driving tuition at the Lausitzring track in Germany, so much time behind the R8’s ’wheel that by the end of the day, we cried enough. Over the years we drove it on a Soviet-era airfield in Berlin, once the longest runway in the world. We caned it in Dubai. We learnt about grip and progressive throttle application on a rain-soaked Nurburgring (mercifully not the north loop). And in India, Audi inducted R8s into their press fleet.
Its super inviting dash suits its attitude of a supercar
Its significance cannot be underestimated. Those were the days when manufacturers were only just warming up to the idea of press fleets and yet here we had an R8 press car! Even more amazingly, Audi said yes to ripping down what was then the fastest road in the country, from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur, a ‘Busa keeping the R8 company. That story I penned for Overdrive was the first supercar feature ever attempted in the country and it was a story that set a trend and template for all the glorious stories you read in so many magazines today. We spent so much time with the R8, even clocking 300kmph in a deserted industrial estate for the headline story of the launch issue of this magazine three years ago, that it made us better drivers – and in the process better writers. It’d be no exaggeration to say the R8 improved the quality of Indian automotive journalism.
This violently orange R8 has big, really big, boots to fill then.