Sitting at the traffic lights whilst the cars peel from left to right across my screen, I am thinking about Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race where Allan McNish, Andre Lotterer, Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi all have paved the track of the Mulsanne Straight in the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro Le Mans Prototype. For the past few years, well, as long as I have been involved with photographing the race, I can remember Audi winning: their pit stops made to ultimate precision, their driver changes a dance of pure motion, yes, Audi winning the 24hours of Le Mans is right in my mind as I sit here in my Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Cylinder-on-Demand S Tronic in Misano Red, with a stunning pearl effect.
The lights change and I need to move on to my destination and think about the driving experience of the 7-speed S Tronic, dual-clutch transmission that this A1 commands. On reading the technical details I can see how the racing calibre of the Audi engineering has transferred to the street car with an In line, four-cylinder, spark-ignition engine with petrol direct injection, exhaust turbocharger with indirect intercooler, four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts a fully electronic direct injection with drive-by-wire throttle control, ceramic under floor catalytic converter with catalyst heating function via homogeneous split dual injection... the spec goes on and on, and quite honestly, I am baffled by what the majority of it means.
Instead, I decide to just drive the car and see for myself if I can understand any of how this car fabulously grips to the road, is incredibly intuitive and is faultlessly consistent with gear changes (love using the sport paddle gears).
Braking is sharp, shifting the car round the country lanes is emotional and accelerating is immediate. Quite frankly I love this little car. Still none the wiser to the incredible engineering behind the Audi stable of race and road cars, I think once again to how the theatre of the pit lane and the Audi team simply have it right on the button, even with their marketing: I was just remembering, when Porsche made their return to the World Endurance Championship race series, the Audi promotional team made such sublime indications of welcoming them back by leaving rubber on the road, by making words out of donuts "welcome back" in front of the Porsche headquarters and when the Porsche broke down at the Le Mans 24hour race, and made a recovery for the last lap, Audi let the Porsche parade alongside them.
It is this confidence that I hold in my head about the Audi philosophy, about this Audi car. The A1 is the only Audi I have driven so far and already I feel extremely assured that my driving experience in it will be a jolly good one.
Moving on a week and my journeys in this little red A1 have been superb, the smooth clutch/ gear transitions, the identification of when I no longer need all cylinders, the smooth comfortable ride, the immediate acceleration in sport mode and the handling around my playful attempts at countryside jaunts, all provided me with enough knowledge that the information about the car that I previously read about is all under the bonnet somewhere.
I look back at the specifications list on my model ... McPherson struts with lower wishbones, anti-roll bar, track-stabilising steering roll radius, steel sub frame, Torsion-beam rear suspension with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, and dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split. ESC with electronic brake-force distribution EBD, electronic axle-differential lock, ABS, electronic differential lock EDL, hydraulic brake assist; at front: ventilated discs, rear: discs.....
Still none the wiser with most of that, if I may please, can I just say that the driving experience the red Audi A1 provided me with was gorgeous. Spacious in the boot and passenger space was ample. Great clean design inside and simple lines on the exterior.
The World Endurance Championship race is on this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas and I will certainly be watching to see how Audi continue to progress with their race technology. No doubt the Audi magic will filter into the road cars next year.
Photo by Lara Platman