The Audi Sportscar Experience at Sonoma Raceway offers four programs: R8, S Model, The Audi Sportscar Experience Challenge, and private and corporate groups. I was in the latter with a group of photography writers and had a chance to drive cars as well as photograph them with other people driving. Check their website for details on each program but so many people asked me what it was like that I wanted to share the experience.
My day at Sonoma started with a briefing from one of the Experience’s instructors. It was brief but full of hard-headed advice on what to expect from the car and the track. Audi provides helmets and paired us up and so I went out in the first session with a TTs with my friend Peter initially driving. S4 sedans were also available. Afterward we changed places and I drove. I’ve seen Sonoma on TV but believe me nothing prepared me for actually driving it and hitting the same turns that Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were racing on. During the session, you follow an instructor around the track and he talks to you via radio giving advice on line, braking, apex and it helps that cones are placed around the edge of track in all the turns—especially for apex.
After the first session there was a debriefing and instruction for an autocross that followed. The autocross set up on the large parking lot and everybody got to drive TTs models. This was the most fun I had all day. As on the track there is an instructor but here he stands in the middle of the course telling you via radio what you are doing wrong as well as encouraging you to stand on the brakes and mash the accelerator. These instructors are hands-down the best that I have ever worked with. I was always a mediocre autocross driver but in that TTs, which is an amazing car, I felt like Mario Andretti.
Then it was time for the R8 and boy what a thrill. Most of us never get a chance to ride in one but having the opportunity to drive one of the most sophisticated supercars in the world—on a racetrack no less—was one of my favorite moments in the world of cars. People always want to know how fast we were going: There was no way I could look at the speedometer when I was driving so I can only tell you what it was when my co-driver was at the wheel and we hit 60+ in the TTs and more than 100mph in the R8. Keep in mind that Sonoma is a twisty track lacking the long straightways at Laguna Seca or Watkins Glen. But it wasn’t the speed I remember most, it was the turns and the thrill of driving a really capable automobile around a legendary race course.
The Audi Sportscar Experience was one of my life’s all-time motoring highlights. If you ever get a chance to attend, go for it. I am sure that it will be one of your most unforgettable experiences as well.