The R tronic is of course the same manu-matic 'box used in the Gallardo and feels so last generation compared to the faster and smoother twin-clutch systems fitted to newer rivals like the Ferrari Italia and Porsche 911 Turbo-time to roll on the next-gen Lambo gearbox. That apart, the car is mechanically brilliant. Upshifting at 8000 rpm is sky-high by most road car standards. As the tach needle swings 'round the dial, the bass-rich warble of the quad-cam 5.2-liter V10 is overwhelmed by a rising noise a few octaves higher. As the decibel level rises, the soundtrack mutates into a sound like a swarm of demented wasps on sterno, overlaid by a Formula One race car scream, all aimed squarely at your eardrums.
The extra horses and less weight are telling, and if you know the stock R8 V10, you can instantly tell the difference. The engine revs more urgently, the mid-range thrust is greater, and the motor breathes noticeably better at the top end. It reaches redline faster in every gear and feels more willing every step of the way.
Turn the wheel and the response is better too. You can feel the carbon-fiber steering wheel takes less effort to move off center, and if you think about it, halving the weight of your point of contact with the road and shaving 9 pounds off each front wheel makes a difference to the speed with which your thoughts are translated into action at tarmac level. The uprated suspension cuts roll and the pointy front end now scythes into turns like a big go-kart. The back end is just as eager to leave the straight and narrow, but because it is always reading from the same hymn sheet as the front, the car feels perfectly poised.
Apply lots of power in a low gear and the big, sticky Cup tires will let go, but then keep some power on with the right amount of opposite lock dialed in and the differentials help you to maintain a nice stable power drift. This is so intuitive that you could probably keep it up until the rubber catches fire or your neck muscles give out.
On the road, the GTR is a paradigm of good behavior. The motor is as tractable as stock, but that awesome top end helps you monster three, four or more cars in one go when you are overtaking. The track-ready H&R suspension had been softened off for road use when I drove the car, and the secondary ride is more than acceptable on country roads, while maintaining iron-fisted control at speed. The factory ceramic brakes are pretty impressive out of the box, but need the uprated pads fitted to the GTR if they are to survive intense track work. They are incredibly effective yet allow perfect modulation on the road for jerk-free stops.
Incidentally, the Michelin Cup tires on the test car survived a full performance test at the Sachsenring track by a German magazine plus our test day, with tread to spare. Back at base, I noticed that they were evenly worn across their broad treads, which shows just how well balanced the car is.
Against the stopwatch, the GTR, as driven by Christian, proved just 5.0 seconds a lap slower than a full race 560-hp R8 LMS at the Sachsenring. Bear in mind that the race car is lighter, has suspension more than twice as stiff and runs slick racing tires.
The Abt R8 Spyder is dressed to kill with a new front grille, front spoiler lip, side skirts, rear valance and rear wing. Other than the grille, all these parts are made from carbon fiber. The ride height of our test car has been dropped 35mm with uprated springs designed to work with the stock dampers. This car was fitted with black-painted Abt BR-style alloys in a 20-inch diameter, with a red color-coded stripe on their flange. Lightweight forged wheel fanatics can opt for Abt's CR design, which comes in a 19-inch diameter only.