Riding Shotgun in an Audi R8-Plus Around Mt Panorama Bathurst

Like many kids growing up, I dreamt of racing at Bathurst.

And every year I sat glued to the TV watching my heroes strut their stuff on Australia’s fastest, scariest and most challenging 6.2 kilometres of bitumen.

I thought all those years of watching, all those in-car shots, and many laps on a Playstation would prepare me for the real thing.

They didn’t. Not even remotely.

Because the telly and the games don’t show the steepness of the mountain, the narrowness of the track, the blind entry to corners, the mid-corner bumps and the mesmerising closeness of the walls.

Making my dream possible was Audi factory sportscar ace Christopher Haase, the 2014 Nurburgring 24-hour winner.

Christopher Haase

Audi Superstar Christopher Haase

His weapon of choice; Audi’s fastest ever production car, the stunning $390,000 449 kilowatt V10 R8-Plus.

As I approached the gleaming silver R8-Plus parked on the start line, my anticipation grew.

I sunk into the tailored sports seat, strapped in as 29-year-old Haase welcomed me with a polite “Hello”, with just the slightest hint of a German accent.

The door closed with a thunk, and my heartbeat jumped.

Christopher built the revs and gunned it off the line, the savage acceleration mashed me into the seat as we hurtled towards turn one, which looked nothing like it does on TV.

Haase braked hard and my belt strained against my body, as it was thrown forward. He clipped the corner’s apex with millimetre precision and as the rear end wriggled, he nailed the accelerator and we rocketed up Mountain Straight, my heartbeat and the V10 engine behind my head, both neared their redline.

We arrived at the long, steep, camber-changing right hand corner in a flash.

From my seat, it felt insanely fast, but Haase, as cool as a cumber, shoved the brake pedal, flicked down a couple of gears and turned in, then immediately got hard on the gas again, as I felt the R8-Plus rear grip, slip and grip again.

He used all the track width as the V10 powerhouse flung us toward the next two left handers; both completely blind on entry. All we could see was walls on each side and in front, which rapidly grew bigger and closer.

As Haase turned into the Cutting I jinked right in my seat, convinced we were about to shave the silver paint off the R8-Plus, but we flew past it within a whisker.

He was super smooth, undramatic and almost in slow motion which contrasted with the blurred kaleidoscopic scenery rushing past the windows.

Scything our way through Reid Park, (one of the track’s most demanding sections) the R8-Plus was on its tip toes over the crest then freefell through a treacherous left-kink, known as the grate, compressing the suspension – and my body.

Christopher smiled and said, “In the race car we come through here at 200km/h.” I winced at the thought, as the G forces tried to shove my head through my shoulders and my innards through my ribs, at a mere 130km/h.

The track felt like a narrow corridor and the high walls sat intimidatingly close, as we flew over the blind entry into McPhillamy Park.

The R8-Plus danced across the road and as he nailed the throttle once more, Haase grinned, “We go flat out through here in the race car”.

Across Skyline he placed the R8-Plus close to the left wall and in one motion, braked, downshifted and turned in under the bridge, my heart and stomach leapt into my mouth as we plummeted through the esses, the tail slithered right-left-right as we skipped over the kerbs.

He braked so hard into the Dipper I ‘hung’ in my seatbelt and felt the weightlessness of an astronaut.

My body and suspension compressed again through the Dipper as we accelerated and upshifted towards Forrest elbow; the concrete wall-lined track seemed like some crazed PlayStation game.

The R8 V10 Plus squirmed under brakes as we descended through Forrest Elbow, slithered out to the wall on the right and onto the rollercoaster Conrod Straight, where Haase told me the R8 race car sat comfortably around 285km/h lap after lap.

Into the Chase and hard on the brakes again, the weightlessness returned, before He picked up the throttle early, easing it to the floor through the long right-hander, as we rocketed to the final downhill turn, one that has ruined many a driver’s perfect lap over the years.

And like a blink of an eye it was over.

“I hope you enjoyed that” said Christopher with a firm handshake and I wished him the best for the 12-hour enduro the following day.

My heartbeat slowed and as I gained my composure and climbed from Audi’s finest, I looked across and said “More than you can ever have imagined”.

A boyhood dream at Bathurst fulfilled.

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