The 2021 Audi RS 3 Saloon, with racing and development driver Frank Stippler at the wheel, has set a new lap record for the compact car class on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, beating the Renault Megane RS Trophy R by 4.64 seconds. Audi says that, above all, the torque splitter, with fully variable torque distribution on the rear axle, contributed most to the record lap time of 7 minutes 40.748 seconds.
Before the lap, Stippler’s team only adjusted the pressure of the semi-slick tyres to the track conditions. “We don’t have unlimited opportunities to try for a record like this,” said Stippler. “That’s why a little is always necessary on the day when it matters – particularly with respect to tyre pressure, because that also affects how the torque splitter functions. We succeeded.”
The RS 3 Saloon is the first Audi to feature a torque splitter, a unit which distributes torque fully adjustably between the rear wheels, controlled via a multiple disc clutch on each of the drive shafts. During hard driving, the splitter increases the drive torque to the outer rear wheel with the higher wheel load. This means that on right turns, there is more torque on the left rear wheel and the opposite on left turns, meaning the car turns into curves swiftly and follows the steering angle precisely.
“In general, the new RS 3 is much more agile when driving from the middle of the curve to its end and when accelerating out of the curve,” said Stippler. “For me, the torque splitter is a quantum leap in terms of agile driving.”
The car also features the newly developed ‘RS Performance’ driving mode, which has engine and transmission characteristics specially calibrated for the racetrack. In this mode, the torque splitter ensures the most neutral handling possible, with little oversteer or understeer. This makes early acceleration possible upon exiting a curve, enabling faster lap times.
The setup is completed by the Pirelli P Zero ‘Trofeo R’ semi-slick tyres (now optional for the first time, except in the UK), the 19in ceramic braking system in the front, and the RS sport suspension plus with adaptive damper control.
The RS Performance mode has two setups for different racetracks – one is a sporty setup for smooth racetracks like the Hockenheimring. The second, used for the lap record, is adjusted for comfort on uneven tracks like the Nordschleife, where minimising vertical excitation while maintaining high lateral dynamics matters. The lap record was of course also aided by the 395bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is good for 290km/h (180.2mph) and 0-100km/h (62.14mph) in 3.8 seconds.