The Audi R8 is more than just another supercar. For any carmaker, even one as experienced as Audi, to get its first ever mid-engine supercar so right the first time out is a great achievement.
On that basis, the V10-powered version could only be better, and other than the extra weight in the back taking a smidgen out of the V8 version's fine balance on the bald limit, the extra horses and the offbeat scream of the Lamborghini-derived V10 motor have only added to the R8's legend in the making.
As always though, the hard-core enthusiasts want even more and it is down to companies like Abt and MTM to supercharge the V8, while giving it even more thrust than the detuned Gallardo V10 offers out of the box.
The Abt-fettled alternative for V10 junkies is the GTR, an unashamed lightweight road racer with a 620-hp motor that pushes the R8 concept to its cliff-hanging conclusion. The GTR is the closest thing to a track day special short of sticking license plates on an R8 GT3 LMS racer. From its mean stance to its stealthy mil-spec satin gray paint, this car is locked and loaded for action.
While Abt's GTR is the epitome of a speed freak's wet dream, the company's R8 V10 Spyder represents the other extreme of the R8 envelope. Take one R8 V10 Spyder, give it the visual works with Abt's latest alloy wheels and a carbon-fiber aero body kit and the result is a red-hot sun seeker. With 600 hp on tap this flashy roadster can also bare a set of pretty sharp teeth on demand.
To seriously explore the performance of either car on public roads would be a problem in more ways than one, so Abt arranged for playtime on the runway of a nearby Luftwaffe airbase. That would normally be a big favor, but as this former home to an F-104 Starfighter squadron is no longer operational, our request was granted by the commanding officer.
Our little convoy certainly raised a few eyebrows on the ground as we made our way to the airfield, and the sentries on the gate, who had been expecting us, were certainly impressed. In fact, had anyone wanted to attack the base at that very moment, they would not have been able to devise a more effective distraction than this.
As we drove through the camp towards the runway, all eyes followed our progress. Officers and enlisted men alike, used to fast jets with wings even bigger than the one on the GTR's engine cover, visibly swooned in admiration at these German wings. Ferrari has nothing on this pair.
Down on the main runway, I had the chance to speak with Abt's co-owner, Christian Abt, who looks after the technical and motorsport aspects of the firm, while his brother, Hans-Juergen oversees the administration.
"After we won the 2009 ADAC GT Masters with our R8 LMS, we thought of celebrating this with a fairly extreme road car using some of our race technology," Christian explains. "Bearing in mind that the LMS racer is restricted to 560 hp, the same as the Lamborghini Gallardo engine tune, we knew we could easily take the 525-hp V10 to this level, while reducing the car's weight.
"On the other hand, we also had the know-how to squeeze even more power from the engine. And once our development department confirmed that they could extract a reliable 620 hp within the road-legal emissions framework, we made the decision that this would be the output for the 25 Project GTR limited edition cars we would offer."
It is no secret that the 525-hp V10 motor in the R8 is detuned from 560 hp with an ECU remap. Even that is a conservative power level, and it's not a big task to restore Lamborghini levels of power and torque and eke out further gains from the four-cam motor.