Dynamism has its fascination, but it needs perfection to ensure safety. Almost 30 years ago, Audi first began to explore the handling limits with its customers. Today, Audi driving experience offers them a successful program with a wide selection of courses, organizing some 800 events in 30 countries each year, with over 20,000 drivers participating. This makes it the international leader in the winter driver training area.
Dynamic performance under supreme control – Audi driving experience
For almost thirty years now, Audi has organized driver training courses for customers who want to learn how to control the performance of a sporty car more safely.
Over 20,000 participants, 800 events in 30 countries, 12 international racetracks, 500,000 kilometers driven – these are just a few of the key figures of the 2008 Audi driving experience, Audi’s driver training program. Whether absorbing efficiency training, classic driver and safety training, out-of-the-ordinary adventure tours or sporty driver training – the highly successful Audi driving experience stands for dynamism, passion and fascination.
To date, more than 250,000 drivers have improved their skill with Audi driving experience, most recently 20,000 of them at approximately 800 courses in 2008. At the 220 winter events held in the past season, 15 professional instructors coached some 4,800 participants on ice and snow. This once again confirmed Audi driving experience’s leading international position as an organizer of winter driver training.
Participants drive cars made available by Audi. This year, there are around 100 cars available, of the types Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro, Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro, Audi S4, Audi Q7 V12 TDI quattro and Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro.
Audi driving experience has a background that, typically for a dynamic carmaker like Audi, began in the motor sport department in 1980, when former race driver Count Freddy Kottulinsky organized training for technical staff, to help them avoid accidents during test runs.
These training sessions were so successful that the Audi Board of Management decided in 1981 to offer them to other employees, dealers and customers. The driver and safety training program, known as Audi driving experience from 1999 on, grew rapidly. Audi has extended the program regularly and modified it to include specific new tasks.
Audi driving experience has a varied program, from classic summer and winter training through racetrack training, individual training and efficiency training to adventure tours. As well as firm dates in the calendar, there is a whole series of events organized at customers’ request, many of them in other countries as well. Audi driving experience can be sampled in around 30 countries all over the world, and as interest continues to grow, Audi will be extending the program still further.
Audi driving experience – the program
Audi training experience
- Basic training
- Basic training for wheelchair users
- Basic Plus training
- Basic and drift training (winter program only)
- Drift training (winter program only)
- Intensive training
- Audi A8 premium (winter program only)
- Executive driver training
- Executive Pro driver training (summer program only)
- Efficiency training (summer program only)
Audi ice experience (winter program only)
- Sweden experience
- Finland experience
- Finland Pro experience
- Finland Pro Exclusive experience
Audi sportscar experience (summer program only)
- Racetrack experience
- Racetrack Pro experience
Audi tour experience
- Audi Q7 Scandinavian Tour
- Audi Q7 Amber Tour
- Audi R8 Alpine Tour
Audi individual experience
- Events for groups and individual training available on request
The fascination of perfection – Audi driving experience
The cones are still standing neatly where they are supposed to be. At more than 80 km/h (50 mph), the Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro plunges into this narrow lane, with red-and-white striped cones marking its end. Shortly before reaching this point the driver rams the brake pedal down at full force – just as the instructor called for. The upper body and arms must remain relaxed, since only with full control of the steering will the driver be able to turn into the lane that leads out to the left.
With a smoothly executed maneuver – left, right and left again – the A8 avoids the obstacle and comes to a halt after a further three meters. There’s a big grin on the driver’s face. He didn’t master this maneuver first time through: he hit the brake pedal too hesitantly and jerked the steering wheel too violently. This time the instructor gives him a friendly clap on the shoulder and says a few words of praise through the open driver’s window – without forgetting to explain what he could do even better on the next run.
At the other end of the cordoned-off, water-covered track, the other half of this group of 20 drivers is ‘going round in circles’! This is the scenario: if a car enters a corner too fast, it will try to run wide, because the speed, steering angle and curve radius can’t be harmonized. ESP is switched off to improve the learning effect.
At first the drivers find it difficult to stay on the circular track: the cones they hit fly off in all directions. But after each attempt and each discussion with the instructor they keep the A8 4.2 quattro on the desired course more accurately. The secret is to ease back the accelerator pedal and reduce the steering angle. Then the A8 obligingly returns to the safe curve radius and all is well.
Many participants’ instincts prevent them from turning the steering wheel back in what seems to be the wrong direction. But practicing proves to them that what they learned in theory that morning is correct. Reducing the steering angle allows the front tires to grip again instead of trying to skid outwards. Then the car responds to the steering again and doesn’t run wide and hit the cones that represent the edge of the road.
Even after this exercise, the participants still have a mixture of pride and amazement on their faces. Pride because they have mastered a potentially hazardous situation, and amazement because their initial fear of a skidding car has given way to a new level of confidence not only in what the car can do but also in what they are capable of themselves, based on knowledge and practice.
The Audi driving experience philosophy is that training should combine the fun of dynamic driving, the fascination of modern technology and the most important lessons to be learned when a panic situation arises. When the course has been completed, the driver has these new skills in reserve if a serious situation should arise.
Audi driving experience: the motor sport department’s idea
1980 was the year when what is now the Audi driving experience began. Count Freddy Kottulinsky hit on the idea of driver training for the motor sport department’s technical staff. The ‘high-speed aristocrat’ was a leading race driver who had won three European touring car and Formula 3 championship titles and also the Paris-Dakar long-distance rally in 1980.
At that time, Kottulinsky was one of the people responsible for developing the cars entered for world rally championship events. His idea was that driver training would help employees to avoid accidents on their many, often strenuous journeys to the areas where testing was to take place. The first training sessions were held near Ingolstadt, using the department’s own cars.
The Audi Board of Management approved this initiative and suggested making the training courses available to a larger group of potential participants. From 1981 on, Kottulinsky and other motor sport experts therefore began to hold courses for dealers and selected customers. For exercises that involved severe tire wear, the cars provided by the company’s technical development department included three Audi quattro models with 147 kW (200 hp) engine. For all the other training tasks, the participants drove their own cars.
The concept soon developed dynamism of its own. Kottulinsky extended the course program regularly and added other instructors to his team, for instance ex-European rally champion Jochi Kleint. By 1983, Audi was offering almost 50 events, including winter training for the first time. Since then, these excursions onto ice and snow have been a firm and especially popular item in the program.
The number of people signing up for classic winter training rose rapidly. In the early years these courses were held in Seefeld (Tyrol), moving in 2001 to Saalbach in the Salzburg region of Austria. Among Audi drivers the word spread quickly that dynamic exercises on an icy surface, and better still at the wheel of an Audi quattro, were about the finest form of driving fun to be had anywhere.
“However good you are – we’ll make you better!”
The best motor sport drivers in the world confirm the importance of these training courses. Here’s what Emanuele Pirro, who has won the Le Mans 24 Hours five times at the wheel of an Audi, has to say: “However good you are, after Audi’s winter training you’ll return home a better driver!” Walter Röhrl, the ultimate rally icon with two world championship titles, comments: “Driver training makes sense for everyone. At the Audi courses in Scandinavia, participants can train in conditions similar to motor sport, with expert instructors on hand to improve their skills.”
Attractive and wide-ranging – the current program
In 1999 Audi grouped all these activities together as the ‘Audi driving experience’. Today, 10 years later, the event program is varied, wide-ranging and attractive, and consists of a large number of modules, some of which follow on logically from one another.
Classic Audi driver and safety training, offered under the name ‘Audi training experience’, is still the focal point of the program. Winter and summer courses are available. Audi uses special training grounds in Gross Dölln north of Berlin, Mendig in the Eifel region and Seefeld in Tyrol. Drift training in winter is held in Seefeld in Tyrol or Saalbach in the Salzburg region of Austria, for example.
There are various grades of difficulty, geared to the participant’s existing skills. Compact basic training is perfect for first-time participants, and this is followed by Basic Plus training as a second stage. Intensive training is an alternative – these groups are smaller and the speed higher.
There is also basic training in suitably adapted current Audi models for drivers confined to a wheelchair. Another course aimed at a specific group is for company executives. Audi A8 premium adventure training is also a special winter event, organized for a small group in Seefeld, with participants staying at a five-star hotel and enjoying an exclusive accompanying program.
The ‘Audi sportscar experience’ program, held only in summer, caters for particularly sporty and dynamic tastes. These racetrack training programs take place at venues such as Barcelona, the Nürburgring, the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, the Salzburgring and in Spa, Belgium. Participants drive the Audi R8 high-performance sports car. Those who complete one of these events successfully can join a ‘Racetrack Pro experience’ intensive training course.
Another Audi driving experience specialty is the range of training programs from the Audi individual experience. These are held in summer and in winter, on racetracks and frozen lakes. Audi organizes them entirely in accordance with the customer’s wishes. He or she can for instance receive coaching from a personal instructor. In most cases this individual training is offered as an incentive for private persons or businesses, with the content as ever matched to the participants’ driving skills.
The ‘Audi ice experience’ is specifically a winter course. Drifting is practiced on frozen lakes in Sweden and Finland, at three different levels of difficulty. The highest level, the Finland Pro Exclusive experience, is aimed at genuinely capable drivers with motor sport experience. It has a strongly competitive character and calls for the participant to be a very skilled driver.
For sheer pleasure: the ‘Audi tour experience’ program
For those with less dynamic ambitions but more time to spare, the Audi tour experience program offers pleasant touring in a particularly top-class current Audi model. The Scandinavian tour in winter passes through three countries, with parts of the journey being made by snowmobile and helicopter as well as in the Audi Q7. The Audi Q7 Amber Tour is being held for the first time in 2009 and is a summer round trip starting in Berlin and taking in the impressive landscape of the Baltic coast. The Alpine Tour, also a summer event, traverses the Alps, with overnight stays in exclusive hotels and an opportunity to drive vehicles such as the Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro.
Efficiency training is a topical suggestion, with theoretical and practical instruction on how to drive Audi’s highly efficient cars even more economically. In future Audi will offer efficiency training through its dealer organization, so that for instance local car fleet managers can be approached. Efficiency will also be mentioned in future as an information topic at all events.
More than 250,000 participants – a success story
28 years after holding its first driver training course, Audi driving experience can look back on a most successful pattern of results. More than 250,000 drivers have taken up one of its offers, including 20,000 at some 800 courses in 2008. About 4,800 drivers attended the 220 winter events last season, confirming the leading worldwide position occupied by Audi driving experience as an organizer of winter training.
Audi driving experience has a staff of 50 in the various function areas. The courses are held by 15 instructors, using cars made available by Audi. The fleet currently amounts to around 100 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro, Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro, Audi S4, Audi Q7 V12 TDI quattro and Audi R8 5.2 FSI quattro cars.
Driver training takes place in about 30 other countries as well as Germany. Austria and Switzerland joined the program back in the 1980s, followed by Sweden, Italy, Finland and Norway in the 1990s. As a global corporation, Audi can now respond to customers’ requests for training courses in countries such as Russia, Japan, China, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Spain and France.
Although capacity is constantly being extended, many of the courses are fully booked for a long time ahead, especially because the proportion of repeat participants and those moving up to more advanced courses continues to increase. Audi will therefore be expanding its program further. The current Audi driving experience program can be seen on the Internet at www.audi.de/driving. Application forms can also be downloaded there.
Audi driving experience programs and application forms can be found on the Internet as well, at www.audi.de/driving.
Equipment, data and prices quoted here refer to the model program offered for sale in Germany. Errors and omissions excepted. Subject to amendment.