It all started with a call from Menchie Ramirez of Audi Philippines who extended an invite on behalf of PGA Cars Chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr.. At first I thought it was for an Audi Driving Experience at the Sepang F1 Circuit in Malaysia for the new A6. Little did we know that there was a little bit more in store for us as we were going to drive the R8 V10s (yes with an 's', because there were a total of 20 cars).

The thought of the R8s gave me even more excitement upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur as some of colleagues were in neighboring Singapore for the F1 Grand Prix which was happening on the same weekend. We were going to DRIVE the R8 V10 in an F1 circuit; that would be a better experience indeed.

The Machine

Based on the Lamborghini Gallardo platform, the R8 is the first mid-engined sports car exclusively designed, developed and produced by Ingolstadt-based automaker's high-performance subsidiary quattro GmbH.

In shaping the R8, Audi used its Audi Space Frame (ASF) based on the RSQ design concept developed for the 2004 film "I, Robot" starring Will Smith. The aluminum monocoque concept developed by Audi in 1993 saves weight and increases torsional rigidity. The ASF translates to better performance, improved handling and lower fuel consumption.

Strength in Numbers

First released in 2006, the R8 was originally equipped with a 4.2-liter V8 Audi FSI engine capable of 420hp and 430Nm of torque mated to either a Lamborghini-sourced six-speed manual transmission or Audi's R-tronic dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission. In 2008, Audi decided to introduce "significant" upgrades to the R8 by introducing a V10 engine derived from the Gallardo LP560-4 in detuned form to produce 525hp and 530Nm of torque.

Performance figures for the R8 V10 include a 3.9-second 0-100km/h time, 97-200km/h time of 8.1-seconds and top speed of 317km/h.

If Looks Could Kill

Significant aesthetic changes to the R8 V10 are the world's first all-LED headlights and the V10-exclusive wheels. Larger side scoops feed more air to the bigger engine, a slightly flared lower side sill and a more aggressive stance enhances the already appealing car. And of course the V10 badge on the front fenders tell it more for the undiscerning.

Star Struck

The R8 came into mainstream popularity when it "starred" in the 2008 film Iron Man driven by billionaire-industrialist Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr.. In the first film, Stark was seen driving a silver R8, while in the sequel, Iron Man 2, Stark is seen with the newer R8 V10 Spyder.

Driving Exercises

To prepare us for the drive, we were introduced to several driving exercises in order to get us familiarized with the car and the circuit; driving an unfamiliar car with 525 horses under the hood in an unfamiliar circuit would produce undesirable effects. We were taken to the more technical parts of the circuit and divided into groups as we got acquainted with these sections for our full track experience.

I took the chance to try out the different settings of the R-tronic transmission. First was driving in full automatic mode which was a boring experience on the circuit as the car kept running at higher gears with less aggressive revving; certainly a mode for a more comfortable drive in urban duties. As soon as Sport mode was switched on, it was a totally different machine. The car ran more aggressive and the downshifts were well timed, while the car shifted higher up the rev range. Now it felt like an R8. Lastly, I decided to give the paddle shifters a try. it was nice to feel shifting on demand, but in sport mode, the R-tronic was smart enough to time shifts properly already.

Unleashed (sort of)

After the lunch break, we were then "unleashed" as we boarded our respective cars led by our instructors to drive around the Sepang F1 Circuit. Our group was led by Malaysian-based race driver Aaron Lim, who competed in the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race with an Audi R8 LMS just a weekend ago. Lim took the front aboard one of two prototype versions of the limited to 333 units Audi R8 GT. The cars had 000 serial numbers and would actually be destroyed after the driving experience tour.

For the track session, each participant was given about 4 laps, alternating with our driving partners as we ran through the track trying to go faster with every lap. I also had bonus tips from my driving partner, Iñigo Roces, who was just in Sepang earlier in the week to drive the Lamborghini Aventador (what a lucky dude).

Our group finished ahead of time in the pitlane, so Aaron decided to give us another go. Luckily for me, Anjo Perez of the Manila Bulletin and Dong Magsajo of The Philippine Star decided to skip the bonus session giving me a chance to hop in their car alone. It was another 8 laps of fun, bringing my total to 12 laps of the Audi R8 V10 on the Sepang F1 Circuit.

The R8 in the Philippines

The Audi R8 is the combination of the automaker's different innovations and technologies that delivers outstanding performance, makes you a better driver and is comfortable enough to be actually used on the street, even on Philippine roads. Audi Philippines has sold about 70 units of the R8 since its local introduction in May of 2008.