The first step is always the fastest. That’s one of the truths in motorsport. When a racing car starts from the grid maximum forward thrust is of the essence. It’s a moment of suspense galore – for the drivers and for the cars. This is how a good start is achieved in any of the current Audi racing cars:


The Audi RS 5 DTM is the car Audi contests the successful DTM touring car series with. It’s the championship winning car of the 2017 season. For 2018, the Audi RS 5 DTM was developed further. The brand with the four rings puts a total of six of them on the grid. These cars are fielded in pairs by three long-standing DTM partners: Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi Sport Team Phoenix and Audi Sport Team Rosberg.

Technology/output: aspirated V8 engine, 4.0 litres of displacement, more than 500 hp (368 kW), top speed of about 275 km/h, rear-wheel drive.

Audi factory driver Nico Müller explains how to best manage a start in the Audi RS 5 DTM:

My Audi RS 5 DTM poses a real challenge at the start, mainly due to its clutch. It’s made of carbon fibre and will bite more or less forcefully, depending on the degree of heat. What this means is that the clutch requires the driver to use it with a particular sensitivity.”

“After my fellow DTM drivers and I have completed the warm-up lap, I take up my current grid position. Then the first of a total of five double red lamps of the starting lights is switched on. At that point, I start the so-called preloading. This means that my left foot depresses the clutch pedal and with the right hand I pull the paddle shifter on the back of the steering wheel. That’s how I put the car in first gear. Then I increase the pressure on the throttle with my right foot.”

“Next, I push the ‘brake’ button on the steering wheel with my left thumb. Basically, this is an electronic handbrake. After that, I lift my left foot off the clutch pedal. The engine power that now acts on the locked driven wheels at the rear, but is not able to produce any motion yet puts my car in a state of maximum ‘tension’. And I’m totally tense during these seconds too. Finally, the last of the full row of red lights goes off. I release the brake button, step on the accelerator, and off I go! Initially – with as little spin of the rear wheels as possible. I shift into higher gear, continue to depress the accelerator pedal and shift up again. And then, running as far in front as possible, turn into the first corner.”

Audi R8 LMS GT3

The Audi R8 LMS GT3 is the first racing car Audi has specifically developed and built for customer sport. The mid-engine car that, like its smaller brother, the Audi R8 LMS GT4, is based on the Audi R8 production model, offers pros and hobby racers countless fielding opportunities: endurance races like the 24 Hours of Nürburgring or the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps just like numerous worldwide GT3 series. 

Technology/output: aspirated V10 engine, 5.2 litres of displacement, up to 585 hp (430 kW), top speed: 305 km/h, rear-wheel drive.

What’s the best way to start in an Audi R8 LMS GT3? Nico Müller explains this as well. The Swiss is also active in endurance racing for Audi in 2018.

“Unlike in the DTM, we don’t make standing but flying starts in endurance racing. Basically, this is easier because you’re already moving when you approach the starting line, so there’s no risk of engine stall while releasing the clutch.”

“The following situation is crucial in a flying start: the safety car that led the field on the warm-up lap has turned into the pit lane but the lights that start the race and allow us to overtake have not been switched to green yet. Now you have to make sure not to miss the moment from which on full race pace is allowed! Otherwise you risk losing one or maybe even several positions.”

“However, I also have to make standing starts in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 – when exiting the pit lane, for instance at the beginning of qualifying and after each pit stop. You move off by using the clutch and by shifting, both by means of paddles on the steering wheel.”

Audi RS 3 LMS

The Audi RS 3 LMS is another customer sport car, which Audi has been offering since the 2017 season. It is fielded in various touring car classes – in short TCR. In 2018, the national and regional TCR scope was expanded. Since then, the highest class has been the new FIA WTCR being held in Europe, Africa and Asia. Two Audi Sport customer racing partner teams are fielding a total of six Audi RS 3 LMS cars there in 2018. Additionally, the touring car competes in sprint and endurance races in various national and regional TCR series. Plus, there are notable single events such as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, club sport or hill-climb races.  

Technology/output: inline-four turbo engine, 2.0 litres of displacement, 350 hp (257 kW), top speed of up to 265 km/h, front-wheel drive.

WTCR driver Frédéric Vervisch from Belgium describes the starting procedure with the Audi RS 3 LMS:

“We move from the warm-up lap to the starting grid and stop. I always keep the car in first gear and the clutch pedal depressed. Then I lock the wheels of my car with the handbrake lever. I have to do that by pulling it as hard as possible and keeping it pulled because you can’t lock the lever.”

“As soon as red comes, it’s time for preloading. In other words using the paddle in the steering wheel to put the car in first gear, slightly lifting the left pedal to sense the biting  point of the clutch and thereby preloading my Audi RS 3 LMS – in a way it’s like drawing the string of an archery bow. At the same time, I push the rev limiter button in the steering wheel using one finger. This special feature keeps the engine from exceeding a pre-set start RPM."

“When the lights start the race I release the handbrake, stay on full throttle and swiftly let the clutch engage. As always: with a great deal of sensitivity! Because in spite of all the precautions it’s easy to stall the engine in a WTCR car, especially when the turbocharger speed massively drops. Sensing the clutch anew every time is another special challenge. It noticeably changes with every starting procedure in the three races of a WTCR weekend. As soon as we’ve started I let go of the rev limiter button. From then on, it’s time to fully focus on turn one.”

Audi S1 EKS RX quattro

Audi in the 2018 racing season is active again in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX) as well. The brand with the four rings provides factory backing to the project of its two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekström. The team competes with two Audi S1 EKS RX quattro cars under the name of EKS Audi Sport. The prototype for the supercar category is based on the Audi S1 sub-compact production model.

Technology/output: inline four turbo engine, 580 hp (426 kW), top speed of up to 210 km/h, four-wheel drive.

Team owner and driver Mattias Ekström from Sweden explains the starting procedure:

“I wait for the track marshal’s signal that the starting procedure in front of the lights begins. Then I depress the clutch pedal, put the car into second gear and switch on the anti-lag system. It keeps the boost pressure of the turbo engine high even when I don’t depress the accelerator. This avoids a delay in the delivery of engine output at the start.”

“Subsequently, I pull the handbrake – mechanically by using a lever – I put my foot down some more. Then I release the clutch until it begins to engage. In tech jargon, we call that ‘finding the biting point.’”

“Together with my opponents I wait for green standing on the grid in front of the lights. That takes two or a maximum of three seconds. When the three green lights come on I simultaneously release the clutch and the handbrake. Normally, I then go off like a cannon ball. I rarely jump-start in rallycross. At the start, I don’t go to the limit as much as I do in the race.”

Audi e-tron FE04

The Audi e-tron FE04 is the first racing car with the four rings that has already been determined as a title winner in 2018: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler won the teams’ classification in the 2017/2018 ABB FIA Formula E Championship with it. Season four of the world’s first electric series for single-seater racing cars ended in mid-July 2018. The teams’ championship was clinched by the Brazilian Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt from Germany. Their cars are single-seater racing prototypes and evolutions of the model in which Audi factory driver di Grassi claimed the drivers’ title in 2016/2017. Together with technology partner Schaeffler, Audi developed and built the motor-generator unit (MGU), the gearbox, the powertrain software and parts of the suspension.  



Technology/output: electric motor-generator, power supplied by a lithium-ion battery, up to 272 hp (200 kW) in qualifying, up to 245 hp (180 kW) in the race, top speed of about 225 km/h, rear-wheel drive.

Daniel Abt, who scored his first two Formula E victories in 2018 in Mexico City and Berlin, explains the start in an Audi e-tron FE04 from the cockpit perspective:

“Generally, anyone who’s used to driving cars with internal combustion engines will be surprised by driving off in an electric vehicle because the electric motor immediately delivers its power output. It doesn’t have to be transmitted to the driven wheels via a manually shifted gearbox with several gears.”

“One thing that totally differs in our case from all other circuit races: we don’t have a warm-up lap. Instead, I select the driving gear by pushing a button on the steering wheel and on command move forward a few metres into my grid position.”

“As soon as the red lights go off I don’t need to play with the clutch. I just have to concentrate on making precisely the right use of the accelerator pedal. Then the sprint towards turn one immediately starts.”