Audi RS 3 Sets A New ‘Ring Record For The Compact Class

This new 400 PS hyper Audi hatchback has just set a time of 7:40.748 minutes round the Nordschleife. 

When Audi first unveiled its latest iteration of RS 3 a fortnight ago, everyone had a reasonable hunch that this new hyper hatch was going to be a serious contender for wrenching the compact ‘Ring king title away from the Renault Megane RS Trophy R. And that is exactly what the German automaker has proudly announced recently, as its five-pot small sedan has clinched that crown with lap time of 7:40.748 minutes round the Nordschleife. 

Achieved by Audi Sport racing and development driver Frank Stippler back in June, this new record is a massive 4.64 seconds faster than what the Megane did in 2019. Just for added context too, the 7:40.748 minute lap time is actually roughly the same as what has been managed by a Porsche 911 997 GT3 and even Bugatti Veyron some years back. 

Now as in the way with all Nurburgring records however, there are inevitably the usual provisos and asterisks attached. Fortunately though for Audi, the only adjustments that were claimed to have been made on this record-setting RS 3 Sedan were to the tyre pressures of its factory-optioned Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slicks, in order to best suit the track conditions on the day. 

Instead, Audi is trumpeting the RS 3’s trick torque-splitting rear axle to be secret sauce for its ‘Ring record. Paired with the newly developed RS Performance driving mode that is apparently specially calibrated for the racetrack and RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control, Frank Stippler had commented that it has enabled for a ‘quantum leap in terms of agile driving’. 

Then again though, the main driving force behind this record run will have to be what is driving all four wheels of this Audi. That is because under the hood lies a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder mill, which outputs a scarcely believable 400 PS and 500 Nm of torque. 

Mated to a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and the obligatory Quattro all-wheel drive system, this little Audi is currently the fastest accelerating car in its class, with a century sprint time of a supercar-rivalling 3.8 seconds. Incidentally too, the RS 3’s 290 km/h V-Max is also the highest in its segment. 

So it should therefore come as no surprise then that the Audi has managed to beat Renault’s prior record by nearly 5 seconds, and match the times set by hypercars from a decade ago. There is however a small comfort for the French automaker, as the Megane’s lap time is still the fastest-ever to be set by a front wheel drive car to date. 

PRESS RELEASE: With a time of 7:40.748 minutes, the new Audi RS 3 Sedan is the fastest compact model on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. In June, Audi Sport racing and development driver Frank Stippler beat the previous lap record in that class by 4.64 seconds. Above all, the torque splitter, with its fully variable torque distribution on the rear axle, contributed to the record time – Vorsprung durch Technik.

“I’m proud of the whole team. Everyone worked hard for this day,” said Audi RS 3 Technical Project Leader Marvin Schwätter when the record time appeared on the board. “When we started development, we didn’t know just how quickly our compact sportscar would really be on the Nordschleife,” he explained. “But over the course of endurance testing, we determined that we could reach very good times and set a new record.”

Before the record-setting lap, driver Frank Stippler’s team only adjusted the tire pressure in the Pirelli P Zero “Trofeo R” semi-slicks to the track conditions. “We don’t have unlimited opportunities to try for a record like this,” said Stippler. “That’s why a little is always necessary on the day when it matters – particularly with respect to tire pressure, because that also affects how the torque splitter functions. We succeeded. It was a triumphant day all around.”

Vorsprung durch Technik: The setup for the best time

The basis for the record is the interplay of top technologies. For the first time ever, a torque splitter is being used in an Audi model. It distributes torque fully adjustably between the rear wheels – controlled via amultiple disc clutch on each of the drive shafts. During dynamic driving, it increases the drive torque to the outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load. This means that on right turns, there is more torque on the left rear wheel and the opposite on left turns. The RS 3 therefore turns into the curve even better and follows the steering angle more precisely. “In general, the new RS 3 is much more agile when driving from the middle of the curve to its end and when accelerating out of the curve,” said Frank Stippler.

“For me, the torque splitter is a quantum leap in terms of agile driving.” That is particularly apparent in combination with the newly developed RS Performance driving mode, which, with its own engine and transmission characteristics, is specially calibrated for the racetrack. There, the torque splitter ensures the most neutral handling possible with little oversteering or understeering in different driving situations. This makes early acceleration possible upon exiting a curve, enabling faster lap times.

The setup is completed by the Pirelli P Zero “Trofeo R” semi-slick tires, which are now optional ex factory for the first time, the 19 inch ceramic braking system in the front, and the RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control. It individually and continuously adjusts each shock absorber to the road conditions, the driving situation, and the mode selected in Audi drive select. RS Performance mode is equipped with two setups for different racetracks – one is adjusted for comfort on uneven tracks like the Nordschleife, where minimizing vertical excitation while maintaining high lateral dynamics matters, and the other is a sporty setup for even racetracks like the Hockenheimring. With its ceramic braking system and adaptive suspension, the legendary five cylinder high-performance engine in the RS 3 delivers a maximum speed of 290 km/h (180.2 mph) – the highest in its segment. The RS 3 is also the best in its class with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 3.8 seconds.

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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