The Audi RS3 LMS will be racing in America for the first time ever this weekend at the Virginia International Raceway. The Pirelli World Challenge race will be the race-prepped RS3’s first chance to show off its mettle against other cars in the Touring Car (TC) class, but it won’t be its first time around an American track. Getting a car ready to race, after all, means hours of testing for the teams that are looking to get onto the top spot of the podium. We caught up with C360R’s team principal, Karl Thomson, to ask him what it takes to race a turnkey race car from Audi.
“It’s a big change for this kind of racing,” says Thomson on a cold morning in C360R’s Toronto garage. With more and more customer race cars coming onto the market, it means that there’s a big shift in where time and money are being spent. And more factory support is great, but it means that everyone is starting off from the same point.
“It’s not easier,” says Thomson. “It’s different.”
Thomson’s race team, C360R (previously known as Compass Racing) has been involved in professional competition for 14 years now. “We haven’t missed a pro race since January of ’04,” he explains. Back then things were different. The team didn’t go to manufacturers, instead, it went to auctions looking for flood damaged or otherwise cheapened cars that it could strip down and turn into a race car. Perhaps predictably, the outfit started out with Honda Civics, moving on to Subaru, and eventually onto an Audi S3. That car was a good fit for the team since being located in Canada meant that C360R had access to the S3 before the American competition.
One of the biggest challenges in setting the S3 up was hacking into the siemens computers that control the car. C360R actually had computer engineers working on the project. The team also wanted to enlist the help of APR, but a disagreement between them and Audi and meant that the two brands couldn’t both appear on the car at the same time. Fortunately, that has now changed, and as can be seen, APR logos figure prominently on the car along with Audi Genuine Parts, a testament to how much better things are when we get along.
All of which is to say that, historically, going racing meant spending a lot of time in the garage and on the computer and working with manufacturers who weren’t all that eager to help you override their safety features (for fear of approbation from governmental bodies) before you could hit the track. And that cost an amount of money that could accurately be described as “lotsa.”
By Thomson’s estimation, after all the work that went into the S3 it cost the team about $200,000. Now things are different. The new RS3 LMS that’s about to race VIR this weekend cost him about $145,000 and it requires no building. “That’s a great price point,” he says. “Not building the cars frees up time to go testing.”
That’s not to say that things are easy now, though. Because every car comes out of the box ready to drive, chassis development becomes a much bigger deal. “Before we could build a better car than everybody else. Now it’s about executing better than the other teams.”
One of the big advantages of buying a customer race car, though, is that manufacturers have fewer concerns about liability. Because the RS3 LMS is sold as a race car, Audi doesn’t have to worry about backyard mechanics using racing tricks on their A3 and risking the lives of their neighbors. That means that teams like C360R can work much more with Audi to develop the best car possible. The best car possible changes from race to race and driver to driver, though, so that means constant, vigilant work. For now, though, it just means setting up a car for the 3.14 mile-long, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway. You can follow the action on Motor Trend On Demand this weekend or on the CBS Sports Network. And we’ll be keeping in touch with C360R as the season goes on to keep you up to date with the latest racing action.
For now, though, it just means setting up a car for the 3.14 mile-long, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway. You can follow the action on Motor Trend On Demand this weekend or on the CBS Sports Network. And we’ll be keeping in touch with C360R as the season goes on to keep you up to date with the latest racing action.
[Photos by Sideline Sports Photography]