Leaders Hillclimb Multi Car Challenge - Audi S8

There was a hint of mutiny within the Multi Car Hillclimb Challenge's ranks when discussing which car we'd like to tap up Audi for. One half argued eloquently for something with 'RS' at the start of its badge and that made a lot of sense. However, I'm deeply drawn to the S8 and it was the only car I fancied from Audi's brochure, so S8 it was.

They were laughing to start with...
They were laughing to start with...
Happily, the idea also tickled Audi's funny bone and they offered up the £80,735 super limo with not so much as a hint of concern. After all, a 1,990kg luxobarge is not the most obvious choice for hillclimbing on the UK's 12-foot wide tracks. Given the S8's giant two-metre width, the Primo PLC-sponsored team would be occupying more than half the road.

Arriving early at Shelsley Walsh, teammate David Finlay and I were able to bag a top 30 place in the signing on queue. This means an extra practice run was guaranteed on the Saturday and we needed all the experience possible.

Hopping into the lavish leather driver's seat for my first run, I had no idea what to expect of the S8. Previously, Mr David (as my teammate is now known in hillclimbing circles) and I reckoned a 35-second time up Shelsley's 1,000-metre course would be admirable.

All the numbers are big bar the time!
All the numbers are big bar the time!
As the timing strut broke the beam at the end of a scruffy first run, I managed 34.52. This blew all expectations out of kilter and Mr David proceeded to lower this to 34.07, which I then matched on my second practice run. Third practice of the day in excellent conditions produced a 33.55 for me and Mr David put in a mighty drive to deliver 33.23 seconds.

By the end of the day, the jokes about a wrong turn on to the start line and the chauffeur not telling the owner where his car was came to a halt. The S8 went from a joke turn to star turn.

I have to acknowledge some superb help and advice from Peter Cox, who was running in his Subaru Impreza in our A2 class. Peter is also an instructor at Shelsley Walsh's driving school and took the time to walk up the hill and show us the right lines during the lunch break. Without Peter's wisdom, we wouldn't have been nearly as quick.

Five metres takes on 1,000 metres!
Five metres takes on 1,000 metres!
To give an idea of how quickly the S8 was going, Tony Bunker in his beautifully driven Nissan GT-R was beginning to look nervously at the timing screens.

There were even more raised eyebrows come Sunday and the competition runs. Despite a scrappy first run, the S8 shot off the line to the 64-feet timing beam in just 2.01 seconds, which is 1g of acceleration. For my second run this dropped to 1.99 seconds and, with a tip-off on best starting practice, Mr David recorded 1.98 seconds. That's an incredible time for a limo on road tyres, even if the S8 has 520hp from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.

My second run was far more enjoyable as the correct lines had sunk in and I concentrated on pushing the car rather than just keeping it on track. The S8 would initially feel like it was understeering into the hedge, but then it settled and gripped. Out of the Esses, the rear would step out a little, but the length of the Audi made it easy to catch.

And a comfy journey home too!
And a comfy journey home too!
In the end, I managed 33.39 seconds for a personal best in the Audi and at Shelsley in any car to date. David had already stuck in a 33.14 on his first competition run and there was much anticipation that he could dip into the 32s. As it turned out, he stopped the clock at 33.05 seconds, which is incredible for a car of the S8's size, weight and aristocratic bearing. Even Mark Spencer, who set a new class record of 31.50-seconds in his Porsche 911 Turbo, was bowled over by the S8.

So, was the big Audi the right choice after all? It was perfect for us to enjoy a weekend's motorsport in absolute comfort and raise awareness of the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes. It also generated more conversation and amusement than any other car we've competed in, so job done in the least likely hillclimb car out there.

Previous reports:
Mercedes A45 AMG

Abarth 695 Biposto

BMW i8

Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Ford Fiesta ST
Seat Leon Cupra ST

Watch the video here.


[Photos: Rich Danby]


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Comments (33) Join the discussion on the forum

  • griffdude 18 Aug 2015

    Blimey Alisdair, that's astounding. Well done!!!!

  • RegMolehusband 18 Aug 2015

    Those are hugely impressive times for such a large car! The 500-600+bhp/tonne Caterhams/Westfields were only three seconds quicker.

  • Oz83 18 Aug 2015

    What a weapon!

    The Audi haters might be silenced for once.

  • soad 18 Aug 2015

    Pretty decent run.

  • Mark A S 18 Aug 2015

    Brilliant Chaps smile that Audi was definitely THE star, might have been driven rather well also wink

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