Audi Australia recently invited me to their Audi Women’s Driving Experience Day at Mount Cotton in Brisbane. It is fantastic to get out of my usual day-to-day routine, sharpen my driving skills AND do some FUN driving with no child seats in the back for once!!
Although I did consider taking some child seats and strollers with me so I could do a quick review of the FAST Audis RS and S models I am driving!!
Firstly I am picked up by a lovely driver and driven to Mount Cotton, which I'll be honest is very nice in itself to not be the one driving and to have a little in-car time without my daughter's constant back seat commentary!!
On arrival, there are beautiful flowers arranged on tables outside in the sun, surrounding a gleaming red Audi R8, which I have the pleasure of sitting in.
While we all settle into our surroundings, register and collect our name lanyards there are coffee and breakfast snacks from the onsite barista.
The day kicks off with a welcome briefing by Steve Pizzati, former Top Gear Australia presenter and racing driver. I am lucky enough to interview Steve later in the day.
Steve encourages us to get out of our comfort zone while he tells us about all the exciting things we are going to be doing and then we are introduced to a wall of high-achieving racing professionals who are to be our instructors for the day. Among them, Melinda Price, who I have the pleasure of being driven by later in the day on the MotoKarna skid pad, Melinda gives a little insight into being a female racing driver in a male-dominated sport before lunch and I find out a little more about Melinda for our Mother's Day interviews.
Waiting for us outside was a stunning array of the Audi S and RS vehicles to be enjoyed (and trusted) in our following four challenges. Extremely excited and lucky enough to be in the red group of women which included TV journalist and Audi Ambassador, Lisa Wilkinson, who I not only have the pleasure of driving with but later in the day I am honoured to interview Lisa too! Still pinching myself!
Our first task on the track is experiencing the radar cruise control in the A5 and RS5 models.
We all set our radar cruise control to 110km/h and follow race driver Luke Youlden around the track using nothing but the steering wheel of course!!! I have to say it is pretty scary at first, trusting the car's computer systems to slow us down, especially for corners.
My little girl was desperate to come with me and the only way I could placate her was to promise to keep her racing car with me all day and take lots of photos of it on my adventures!!
We stop to put on helmets and I discover when in the passenger seat, I am either very nervous or travel sick!!
Here I am with the RS5, well and truly resembling a playmobile figure!!!
We retrace our tracks on the same circuit but this time without the radar cruise control,trying to keep up with Luke and not chicken out in the corners which is an exhilarating challenge!
With my insides well and truly fluttering we move on, this time trying out the auto emergency braking (AEB) in the new Audi SQ7. Firstly can I just say, I have always wanted to do this! I have watched videos many times and always wanted to experience it myself! We drive the Audi SQ7 at around 25km/h at the back of the inflatable Audi and the AEB kicks in to stop the car automatically.
What we all discover is it is muuuuch harder to not brake than you expect it to be and many found not looking was the best way to get around it. I have a few very successful stops where I manage to refrain from braking and let the AEB do its thing and also a couple of colossal fails that made me very glad it was an inflatable Audi and not a real one!!
One of the delights of this challenge for me is, in-between AEB stops, we drive a figure of eight in the Audi SQ7, so I get to have a little drive and a feel for the car! I can not wait to review the Q7 (or even the super fast SQ7 version) as it definitely feels like a very sturdy and spacious car with much lighter steering than I expected.
Embarrassed by my AEB crashes we head back for a delicious morning tea where we all enjoy talking about the events of our morning driving.
When we resume driving it is into the Audi A3 and Q3 to try emergency braking. After our briefing with race driver Nathan Pretty, we all jump in a car to flex or emergency stop reflexes.
We drive flat out until the blue cones, where we emergency brake and come to a surprisingly quick stop. These cars have very good brakes!
The great thing about the day is I am starting to learn what else these Audis are capable of and really get a feel for the different models. I rarely test and experience more than the practicality of vehicles so this is a great opportunity to have some fun and learn some skills that will be very transferable to every day driving and emergency situations.
The cones are then re-positioned and it's an emergency brake with a swerve into the neighbouring lane.
It might sound easy but I can tell you it's not as simple as it looks!! I can also tell you I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge! Surprisingly I only plough over a few cones, which Steve jokes he will send me the bill for!!
Tearing around the track next to us is another group of ladies, making the most glorious chorus of engine sounds with the Audi TT RS Coupe, on the motorkhana challenge.
Two laps of a course laid out in cones on a wet and skiddy pad. Go as fast as you can, the second lap is timed and all the times are compared for an ultimate Audi Women’s Driving Experience Day winner!
Firstly we are driven around the course by Melinda Price, while she gives us clear instructions on how to brake for corners and negotiate the course.
Melinda's corner braking information was real take home stuff that I feel is actually really useful for driving out on the roads. I was never 100% sure if you brake before the corner or midway around but I got to ask those questions you're sometimes too embarrassed to ask (in case you're wondering, you brake before the corner)!
Then it is our turn… I am nervous and excited about this one but it turns out it is my FAVOURITE! Remembering the course is a welcome challenge for my mum brain and I impressed myself by not getting lost 😉
I had little green car for luck 😉
The Audi TT RS was sensational and the sound of the engine is very charming! There are a lot of laughs and apart from taking out a couple of small cones on a corner, I was pretty proud of myself!!
It is a pleasure watching all the other women driving throughout the day and there is a really fun and supportive atmosphere, without judgement. It's not about who is the better driver but about everyone having a go and having fun.
We retired to the track for all the groups to come together, this was a great time for everyone to chat about their days driving and Lisa Wilkinson asked Melinda Price about being a female racing driver in a male-dominated sport, which turned into a great discussion.
Having compared all the times, Steve Pizzati announces the overall winner of the motorkhana timed challenge.
The winner is a lady who was totally gobsmacked and given the day as a surprise gift from a friend! She and the lady who the instructors judged made the most improvement over the day were given hot laps in the Audi R8 with Steve driving!!
Just when I thought our fun was up, Audi surprises us with a hot lap in an Audi RS6 and I am with race driver Luke Youlden. I LOVE the ride and am revisited by my nervous tummy!!
After a day of driving fast Audis, we had all earnt our lunch but first of all, I get to interview Lisa Wilkinson. With nerves in my tummy and a big smile on my face, I asked Lisa about cars, family and motherhood.
Then we both joined the rest of the women for a delicious and well-earned luncheon!
The flowers are beautiful and so is the food. A room filled with chat and laughter it is an absolute pleasure spending the day driving with such a fabulous group of women.
Steve Pizzati hosted a Q&A session with Lisa Wilkinson where she shared a lot of the questions I had asked her earlier and expanded with some funnies about her career, cars and family life. Lisa shared what she enjoys about her role as Audi ambassador and what she likes about the brand and its vehicles.
Then we were off for more mingling over a dessert of Audi-branded chocolate brownies, which are extremely yummy, and a goodie bag before everyone starts their departure.
As everyone leaves, I take the opportunity to have a chat with Steve Pizzati about cars, kids and funnies!
It is a sensational day, truly transported from my usual life and a nice reminder that us mums can have a bit of fun too! Now for my kind driver to take me home, where my daughter waits for me to re-tell the entire experience including all the adventures her little green car has been on AND reunite her with it! 😉