From Germany, With Love: Audi Sport GmbH Faces The Brutal Nürburgring

Audi Sport GmbH conducts extensive testing on the North Loop (Nordschleife) of the Nürburgring. The nearly 13-mile course is among the most challenging in the world. More than 80 percent of the course is driven under full throttle. Engineers and test drivers from the Audi Sport GmbH team know this all too well.

Say what you want about station wagons, shooting brakes, or whatever you want to call them: The new Audi RS 6 Avant is one of the best modern cars today. If you don’t like wagons, maybe the RS 7 Sportback is right up your alley? Either way, all Audi RS models have a mythical and divine aura, from its cars and wagons to premium SUVs like the RS Q8.

And it goes deeper than just having wider fender flares or aggressive fascias. The RS vehicles developed by Audi Sport GmbH are not your typical S model. Every aspect of an Audi RS is meticulously enhanced to deliver mind-blowing performance. And yet, each vehicle is exhaustively tested, honed, and refined in what many consider as the most difficult and challenging racetrack in the world.

“RS vehicles have a strong and unique character: spontaneous maximum performance wherever and whenever desired, and effortless performance on long journeys,” said Oliver Hoffman, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH. “An RS is a true Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. This is achieved thanks to breathtaking design, high-end look and feel, and outstanding quality.”

The emphasis is on “outstanding quality,” and we find it hard not to agree. For the most part, Audi vehicles have consistently performed well in terms of build quality and reliability. In the 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study conducted by J.D. Power on the most dependable luxury cars over $45,000, the Audi A5, A6, and A7 received a score of 9 out of 10. Meanwhile, Audi is among the top-ranked brands in the luxury segment, according to Consumer Reports.

5,000 Miles Around The North Loop

Every new Audi RS model succumbs to 5,000 miles (approximately 8,000 kilometers) of endurance testing on the North Loop (Nordschleife) of the Nürburgring, or more popularly known as ‘The Green Hell’ as christened by Sir Jackie Stewart in 1960. “The North Loop represents the ultimate endurance test in our development and coordination work,” Hoffman added. “The track provides us with detailed information about the durability of our parts under extreme conditions and specifics about the suspension.”

Driving around the North Loop is way different from an ordinary boulevard cruise. It spans 12.94 miles (20.832 kilometers), and you drive more than 80 percent of it in maximum attack mode – that is, full power and pedal to the metal. No doubt, the North Loop is a huge blast for any thrill-seeking driver, but it’s not just about top speed and achieving the fastest lap time.

According to Audi, traversing 5,000 miles on the North Loop at full song for 80 percent of the time is equal to driving a vehicle for its entire service life. In fact, Audi claims if you can “survive here, you can survive on the world’s roads,” and further clarifies by saying a single mile on the North Loop is comparable to multiple miles on a regular road. Hence the reason why automakers, like Audi, consider running the North Loop as the benchmark for performance cars.

Aerial shot of the Nordschleife where Audi Sport GmbH conducts testing.
Since its construction began in 1925, the Nordschleife has enjoyed a reputation as a terrifying and merciless route through the Eifel forests. An English journalist who visited the Nordschleife during the opening race on June 18th 1927 concluded that it seemed as if a “reeling, drunken giant had been sent out to determine the route.” Photo: Robert Kah – Nürburgring.

The Green Hell Maestro

Any car is only as good as the driver behind the wheel. And when talking about the Green Hell, champion racing driver Frank Stippler is considered the maestro. Born in Cologne and currently residing in the Eifel region of Germany (which is less than 30 minutes away from the Nürburgring), Stippler is connected to Audi Sport like a baby in the mother’s womb.

The man has won numerous iconic races, particularly the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which he won in 2012 and recently in 2019. However, Stippler’s been part of Audi Sport since the R8 LMS GT3 debuted in 2009, and he’s part of the development team of Audi Sport racing cars, including RS models and the 2019 Audi R8.

And while we’re crazy for the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback, Stippler created shockwaves at the North Loop in the fall of 2019. Behind the wheel of an RS Q8, Stippler clocked an official and notarized time of seven minutes and 42.253 seconds. It was good enough to beat the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 – the previous record-holder – by seven seconds. Seven. It’s also good enough to proclaim the Audi RS Q8 as the fastest SUV around the famed track.

What’s really interesting is the irony. During the run, Audi wasn’t trying to break the lap record. Instead, the team was intent on fine-tuning nerdy stuff like suspension dynamics and throttle response. Nevertheless, the new record is proof of Stippler’s expertise and the RS Q8’s high-speed track potential. “The RS Q8 combines outstanding performance and extraordinary design along with the power and versatility of an SUV and our extensive quality standards,” Hoffman added.

Audi Sport GmbH: Built To Impress

Uncompromising quality is at the heart of every Audi RS model. Each individual RS vehicle is assembled on a “master jig,” which is Audi speak for an ultra-precise and state-of-the-art aluminum measuring device. With the help of laser scanners and hi-tech software, each body panel is assembled and aligned to the tenth of a millimeter. This technique ensures fantastic build quality and aerodynamic performance in every vehicle, according to Audi.

“Our customers demand the best products on the market,” Hoffman said. “We have the best specialists and teams to meet the highest expectations.”

Audi Sport GmbH family.
Audi Sport GmbH family. Photo: Audi Group.

Variety Is The Spice of Life

Audi is currently offering eight RS models in the United States, which is more than most trim models of ordinary family cars. It starts with the 2020 Audi RS 3 sedan followed by the RS 5 Sportback, RS 5 Coupe (yum!), TT RS (Coupe and Roadster), and RS Q8. The list also includes the RS 7 Sportback and RS 6 Avant, the latter of which is arriving in the U.S. for the first time.

Ever since Audi’s Quattro GmbH division unleashed the magnificent RS 2 Avant in 1994, the RS badge has become synonymous with uncompromising performance. For all intents and purposes, that mission continues today with Audi Sport GmbH. “A unique character will only evolve if we work consistently and with great precision,” Hoffman said.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine. 

Photos & Source: Audi Group, Nürburgring.
Cover Photo: Robert Kah – Nürburgring.