(QQ, Winter 2004) — If I had to sum up my experience in Spain with two words they would be Woo Hoo! To say I had a good time would be the understatement of my life. I fell in love four times while in this beautiful country-with Barcelona, the people, the new S4, and a wonderful race track.
As usual the people from Audi put on a great event. Everything was arranged with military precision. Even Mother Nature couldn't throw this group of professionals a curve ball in the form of a nasty thunderstorm on the second day of driving.
I started off this adventure with a grueling flight from Kansas City to Atlanta and then on to Barcelona. I always wish I lived closer to the places I want to go, but life just didn't work out that way. It seems that everywhere I want to go is at least a ten hour plane ride. If I could afford to fly in first class it might not be so bad, but I would rather spend the difference on another trip or on the new S4.
I arrived in Barcelona on August 14 in a somewhat worn condition. The good people at Audi sent a driver to pick me up at the airport. I arrived at the Hotel Diplomatic at about 11:30 am, went to my room and proceeded to take a two hour nap to get ready for a night on the town. After a welcome shower I migrated to the lobby for a beer in the hope I would catch some of the early arrivals from the states. Finally, one by one we had a nice group ready to go out on the town for some food and drink. The first night we walked around the city and ended up in a great Tappas bar. We spent the evening drinking great Spanish wine, eating Tappas, and talking the night away. The following day was spent exploring the town and visiting one of the organically styled Gaudi buildings not far from the hotel.
That evening we met up with the Audi AG folk and our European counterparts in the bar for a few drinks prior to taking a bus tour on our way to the restaurant. The bus meandered through Barcelona taking us past a bull ring, the Olympic Village, and a lookout from which you could see most of the city.
Once we arrived at the restaurant I was awestruck. The bistro resembled an old world structure set in a beautiful courtyard with trees, vines and little lights adorning a gazebo. A bright red S4 was parked in the corner of the courtyard. Everyone mingled, drank wine, and had appetizers in this fantastic setting prior to sitting down to dinner. Once at dinner we had time to chat and get to know each other a little better. It was interesting to hear what the drivers from Europe had to say about the new S4 and the experience they've had thus far. I enjoyed my conversation with one of the drivers from Germany who told of totaling his Porsche at the Nurburgring two weeks prior to coming to this event. All in all it was a great evening with an even better day to come.
Now for the meat of this trip-the reason for going-the new S4 and a race track. The first day consisted of a 7:00 am wake up call from Audi and breakfast. We took a 40 minute ride to the Circuit de Catalunya where we would spend the next two days. Once off the bus we attended a 30 minute drivers' meeting with instruction on track procedures and driving theory. After this we made our way to the pit area where a fleet of new S4 Avants awaited a group of eager drivers. We spent the first day learning car handling skills such as how to deal with over steer, under steer, emergency braking, and rapid lane change. On day two the fun really started when we put on our helmets. I had never worn a helmet at Audi's previous schools, so I knew things were about to get serious.
We spent the first part of the second morning lapping segments of the track with our instructor, Oliver Rudolph. Oliver taught us the course section by section with progressively higher speeds. By mid-morning a thunderstorm rolled in complete with hail and a tornado for good measure. We had to pull the cars into the pits under an overhang to prevent damage to the cars. After the worst of the storm passed we were back on the track in slick conditions which made quattro shine. By early afternoon the skies had cleared and the track was dry to the delight of all. We did not want to drive our afternoon hot laps in the rain.
Shortly after lunch one by one they let the cars onto the track in ten second intervals to run the course for four laps. Each driver got two runs of four laps each on the course, as fast as their skill would allow. Some were faster than others, but everyone came back with a smile. The new S4 sounded amazing at full throttle on the front strait of the circuit. The 4.2 liter V8 makes such incredible mechanical sounds that you might not even care if your car has a sound system. The gearbox in this car is the best I have ever shifted. The motor is so smooth and linear that you have no idea how fast you are picking up speed until you look down at a speedo that is climbing like mad. This is by far the finest car I have ever driven. I congratulate Audi for hitting a home run with the new S4.
The final night with Audi was spent at a fantastic restaurant overlooking a harbor area festooned with yachts, palm trees, and a great view of the Mediterranean. As always the food was first class and a good time was had by all. This was my forth trip to an Audi AG Driving School and it was the best time I have ever had. This trip will bring a smile to my face for some time to come. I would like to thank Audi for the best time of my life.
P.S. Audi, how soon can you get my new S4 here?