Audi is considering production of a road-going version of its R8 GT3 racing car, to rival the Porsche 911 GT3.
The V10-powered, rear-drive Audi R8 GT3 racecar won last year's FIA European GT Championship in its debut season, and Audi has been overwhelmed with orders for racing cars this year. It is set to deliver an extra 30 cars on top of the more than two dozen it made last year. And now it is thinking about putting it into series production.
Audi's body-in-white chief, Armin Kappler, confirmed that one road-going car has already been built for appraisal, and that VW Group boss Ferdinand Piech likes it, but says a decision on whether to produce the car has yet to be made.
If it does get the green light, the GT3 would fit with Audi's plan of releasing a new R8 variant every year or two, as Porsche does with the 911 (GT3, GT2) and Lamborghini does with the Gallardo (Balboni, Superleggera). Audi expects the R8, which was introduced in 2006, to have a seven- or eight-year life cycle, as with its other cars.
Knowledge gained from the race series is expected to filter into the production cars. Already, on circuits where a car can be riding curbs for up to 10 seconds per lap, Audi has identified areas where the R8's aluminum spaceframe could be reinforced.
The next-generation car may not be all-aluminum, though. The imminent introduction of battery technology into Audi's sports cars (with the forthcoming e-tron models) means the company is looking at making its spaceframes partly from carbon fiber. This will be used for high-strength joints and body panels.
If successful, the next R8, due in 2013 or 2014, could use structural carbon fiber in its chassis. By then, Audi will also have made a decision on whether to equip the R8 with a dual-clutch gearbox, as used on other Audis, but not on the R8 or Lamborghini Gallardo; the Lambo's drivetrain technology will still be borrowed for the R8.
The new RS5, which uses a more powerful version of the R8's V8, is the first RS model to use a dual clutch gearbox, but Lamborghini is resisting the move to a dual-clutch gearbox. The Murciélago replacement will not use a DSG 'box, either.