We’re pretty sure anyone reading this site has seen Jason Statham do incredible things in the Transporter series of movies. The po-faced action man with the heart-of-gold uses an Audi A8 as his steed of choice. We think Statham will approve of the track special we recently had the chance to drive at Killarney Raceway.
Not your usual racecar
The car in question is an Audi A8, most likely the only A8 track car in South Africa. Somewhere in its checkered past, the usually lavish interior of the luxo-barge was gutted. Just about everything was removed, included the carpets, door cards, facia trim and seats.
What you now find inside a racecar interior treatment. There are four, yes four, individual race seats, complete with harnesses. The facia has been plastered over with strips of carbon-fibre and there is a roll cage in place to protect all on board. Notably, the auto gear-shifter has been replaced with a manual gear lever… more on that later.
Under the bonnet is an Audi V8 motor. The standard ECU has been tweaked a tad and instead of delivering 210 kW, this engine produces roughly 240.
As mentioned the standard, automatic, transmission has been junked in favour of a six-speed manual unit, sourced from an RS4. Drive is still directed to all four corners via the standard Quattro system. New, larger alloys, shod with semi-slick rubber, are the final link in the power transmission chain.
A novel idea
This unlikely track tool was created with the intention of letting people experience Killarney Raceway from confines of a cockpit, but without having to drive the track themselves.
Local car sales firm Bessie Bester Motors owns the car and in conjunction with the Western Province Motor Club they allow people to gain first-hand experience of the Cape’s longest-serving tar racetrack.
Ideal candidates for such an exercise are the two gents you see in the image above. Despite working at the track for many years, they’ve never been around for a high-speed lap. On the day I was at Killarney they got their first taste of what it feels like in a racecar.
A daunting proposition
At a recent street-car open track day, I was given the chance to get behind the wheel of the Killarney Experience Transporter.
I was a bit hesitant at first as I’d not driven Killarney in over seven months. On top of that my racecar (you can read all about it by clicking here) has just 90 kW and weighs 1 040 kg with me in it. The Audi A8 weighs about 1,6 tons empty and makes about three times the power.
I shouldn’t have worried. A few corners in and I was back into the swing of things. The A8 is large and heavy, so it requires a very smooth driving style, which many people have said I possess. It may look racy but it feels very much like a road car.
One has to really coax the large vehicle into and through corners. The V8 lump sits entirely ahead of the front axle line which means that the car is quite prone to understeer. But it handles far better than expected. I drove it on my ace so I didn’t have to contend with extra mass that passengers bring.
Click here to read about the all-new Audi Q8.
An almighty noise
In a straight line the A8 shunts, as would a car with 250 kW. It was the response of the V8 that really caught me out. Thanks to the ECU tweaks and a new exhaust system the A8 revs up extremely quickly. I bumped up against the 6 200 r/min limiter more than once at it arrives a lot quicker than expected.
More impressive is the almighty noise that emanates from the twin, straight-through pipes. The Audi really sounds like a refugee from a Nascar race. That V8 really bellows as the car flies down Killarney’s two long straights. I’ll bet the noise alone will make most novice passengers feel as though their’s was the quickest lap ever of Killarney Raceway.
Calling it a day
It was great to get back behind the wheel and as much as I would have enjoyed doing dozens of laps, as I started to feel at ease with the car I knew it was time to head back into the pits. No point in starting to push for quick lap times in someone else’s demo vehicle.
The initiative is a brilliant one and should be applauded. If you are interested in getting a ride in the Killarney Experience Audi A8 Transporter, get in touch with the administrators of Killarney, the Western Province Motor Club. I assure you it’ll the most fun you have that month.