Although I had some track experience earlier this year when Audi invited me for their Sportscar Experience in the R8 V10, I had never been to an open track day (The R8 V10 drive was done in a controlled environment, with instructors on hand to lead).
So, when Audi (again. Aren't they nice people?) asked me if I wanted to join them on a track day adventure with the RS5, I certainly couldn't say no.
For Singaporeans, the most obvious place to do a track day was Sepang. It was the nearest 'proper' racetrack to us, even though it's a good three hour drive from our sunny island.
So, our day began early, as I joined Audi Singapore's Public Relations Manager Lee Nian Tjoe on the drive up North. We set off at around 7am, way too early for a Saturday morning.
After clearing Customs at Tuas (which took a while as we had to jostle with the weekend crowd driving up as well), we opened the beans as we pointed the RS5 towards the direction of KL.
True to the car's performance ability, it dispatched the journey with little fuss, and we reached our destination in just under three hours.
Managing Director of Audi Singapore, Reinhold Carl, joined us after taking a flight from Singapore (which was delayed, meaning the car actually got to KL first. Score!), and once trackside, we parked the RS5 alongside the specially-prepared S4 trackcar that Audi regularly brings up to Sepang for such occasions.
After a safety briefing (which was compulsory for all) and an orientation drive (I was a newbie after all), we were finally allowed to go out on our own.
I was naturally cautious, but both experienced Audimen (that's a nice term) taught me plenty about track driving, about finding the right lines, braking and acceleration points, and etc.
I didn't drive particularly fast, because 1) it was my virgin experience, 2) I was driving an almost $400,000 sports coupe and 3) I'm timid by nature. But it was still fun learning in a car as exciting as an RS5. With its Quattro all-wheel-drive, it was possible for one to overcook the limit and still not be killed (metaphorically of course).
The most thrilling part though, was getting to go out on track in both the S4 track car and RS5, with Mr Carl at the wheel and me being passenger.
It was then that I was truly shown the difference between an amatuer everyday driver (me) and a true motorsports enthusiast. I now have newfound respect for Mr Carl after laps of riding shotgun with the affable German, who displayed some rather awesome skills at late braking, four-wheel-drifting and sheer bravado.
The weather started to open up as our session came to an end, and even though it was short (just about three hours), it was quite an enlightening experience.
Given a free track, and enough time and guidance, I suppose I can make a decent fist of a lap at Sepang. But as Mr Carl pointed out during a chat, fitness is also important if one is to really cut it, because driving for hours on a track (especially one like Sepang, where the weather can be unforgiving) is quite taxing on the human body.
And if there are other cars on the track, intense concentration is also very important as well, just to avoid crashing. So your mental and physical state has to be on top form to really be a competitive race driver.
Looking at myself, I doubt that can really happen. But oh well. At least I had a go.