Burning Rubber on Track Behind The Wheel of Audi TT Mk III Cup

We trickle back into the paddock and a heaving crowd gathers around the ticking TTs, several of which now carry light war wounds. I assume the fans will realise I’m not a pro when I fail to work out how to undo the window net to climb out, but the Audi race suit I’m wearing (complete with my name and a union flag; the TT Cup’s attention to detail is quite something) looks so professional some of them proffer marker pens for autographs. I don’t know the German for ‘I’m actually just a journalist’, and it seems more polite to sign and smile.

As for the full-time drivers, Philip Ellis has taken the win ahead of Gosia Rdest, with Treluyer in fifth. They’re on a strict timetable of debriefs and interviews; after qualifying they were on stage in pressed white shirts to be introduced to world’s me­dia, now they’re in red Audi Sport polo tops for data analysis with Audi’s race engineers. Data analyst Rolf kindly goes through my telemetry too, and openly laughs at my gentle brake pressure. In places I should be putting in as much as 30 bar extra – hitting the pedal as if I hate it. There’s still plenty more lap time to be unlocked in race two.

But the weather has other ideas. As a persistent drizzle falls, the DTM cars begin to slither around and the TT Cup organisers decide we must start race two on wet-weather tyres; no-one is allowed to take a gamble on slicks. It’s a hot day, though, and by the time we reach the grid the track is almost dry. This could be interesting.

Traditionally, Audi TTs do not oversteer. For half an hour on a Sunday afternoon at Hockenheim, these ones do. The tyres begin to degrade to the point that chunks of rubber are pelting my windscreen and some cars even lose their wheelarch liners. Fingertip-smoothness is the order of the day to nurse the tyres to the end, and the whole field throws some spectacular shapes. While Ellis and Rdest again fight it out at the front, I enjoy a great battle with Jack Manchester, swapping positions nearly every lap. I’d ended the first race with some push-to-passes left, and you can’t carry them over to the next race. Keen not to make the same mistake again, this time I gobble through them all in the early laps like a kid with a bag of Haribo and I’m defenceless every time I see Jack’s windscreen turn blue in the mirrors. Eventually he runs out too and I make a move stick, crossing the line in Pi4behind German Mike Beckhusen. I’m not last, again!

Whispers within the paddock are that this season will be the TT Cup’s last. Don’t be surprised to see the championship return with another model in the future, however. The Doctor Who of one-make racing, today’s TT Cup is the regenerated form of the VW Scirocco R Cup, itself an evolution of the original VW Lupo Cup, and its appeal is strong. Each TT Cup driver I speak to says they chose the series partly because of the careers built by previous graduates, and partly its direct link to Audi’s factory racing programmes.

After being in the eye of the incredibly slick Audi Sport storm for a weekend, I can see why. This is the lowest rung on Audi’s racing ladder, but even here the attention to detail that won Le Mans 13 times is entirely evident.

Whoever wins the 2017 TT Cup will be a driver with a hell of a skill set. And immaculate timekeeping to boot.

AUDI TT CUP


Engine: 1984cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 306bhp (337bhp with push-to-pass activated), 295lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed DCT, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1125kg
Materials: production shell in steel and aluminum, composite bodywork
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, four-link rear
Brakes: steel, with racing ABS
Tyres: Hankook slicks

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