Former S3 IMSA Car Becomes 550-HP RS 3 Pikes Peak Climber

Audi RS 3 Pikes Peak

Piloted by Robb Holland, RS 3 dubbed “The Sledgehammer” brings 550 horses to reclaim front-wheel drive record at Pikes Peak.

Audi is no stranger to Colorado’s Pikes Peak. After the end of Group B rallying in the mid-Eighties, the ur-Quattro and Sport Quattro both took on the 12.42-mile climb into the clouds, smashing records and scoring trophies along the way. Audi even sent up a TTS with autonomous technology in 2010 to prove such tech could make the climb up and down the famous course in the first place.

In more recent times, Robb Holland wields an Audi of his own for Pikes Peak, an RS 3 dubbed “The Sledgehammer.” Hoonigan AutoFocus‘s Larry Chen spent some time at this year’s gathering to learn more about Holland’s Audi, and all that goes into taking it up the mountain.

Audi RS 3 Pikes Peak

“It was an S3,” said Holland. “Full all-wheel drive; that’s how it ran in IMSA. Then, we converted it to front-wheel drive because we set the front-wheel drive record in the TT RS, the one that we won the 25 Hours of Thunderhill with. Brought it here, set the record. Then, two years later, Acura brought their full factory effort, and took the record from us by six seconds.”

The conversion to front-wheel drive also turned the now-RS 3 into an Unlimited-class car. Though it is outclassed by everyone else in said class, Holland’s main goal is to take back the record from Acura. In 2020, they fell three seconds short, due to the bumps.

Audi RS 3 Pikes Peak

“Right now, this is the two-liter motor,” said Holland. “We’d love to run the 2.5-liter […] But for right now, we’ve developed this as a 550-horsepower– it works. It’s designed to work at Pikes Peak. It’s designed to work at altitude.”

To put all the power to the ground, Pirelli Supersofts handle the task at hand. Since it’s already cool in the mornings, though, tire warmers bring them up to a piping hot 200 degrees. That said, the higher the elevation, the harder it is to keep the tires warm. Thus, the softer compound.

Audi RS 3 Pikes Peak

“The guys at Bluewater Performance, who built this car […] they wanted a car that was closer to their customer cars,” said Holland, “as opposed to some one-off prototype or whatever. It’s worked out really, really well. It just goes to show how far you can push a street car, and the level of performance you can get out of it.”

Images: Larry Chen (screenshots by author)

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Cameron Aubernon’s path to automotive journalism began in the early New ’10s. Back then, a friend of hers thought she was an independent fashion blogger.

Aubernon wasn’t, so she became one, covering fashion in her own way for the next few years.

From there, she’s written for: Louisville.com/Louisville Magazine, Insider Louisville, The Voice-Tribune/The Voice, TOPS Louisville, Jeffersontown Magazine, Dispatches Europe, The Truth About Cars, Automotive News, Yahoo Autos, RideApart, Hagerty, and Street Trucks.

Aubernon also served as the editor-in-chief of a short-lived online society publication in Louisville, Kentucky, interned at the city’s NPR affiliate, WFPL-FM, and was the de facto publicist-in-residence for a communal art space near the University of Louisville.

Aubernon is a member of the International Motor Press Association, and the Washington Automotive Press Association.

Salvage RS 3 vs Showroom S3 Duel Upon the Runway of Time

Audi RS 3 vs Audi S3

One packs a turbo-five and a salvage title. The other runs a turbo-four and a factory warranty. Both RS 3 and S3 put on a good show.

Here in the United States, the only S3 available to us is the sedan. Which is fine. However, the sedan’s trunk doesn’t offer the same utility as the hatchback on sale over in Europe. Throw on the power of its 2.0-liter turbo-four, and the only challenger to its throne is the hottest Audi hatch, the RS 3.

Even one nearly a decade older. Carwow‘s Mat Watson recently pitted a brand new S3 against a salvage 2012 RS 3 rebuilt by YouTube channel Saving Salvage. Though Audi fans come out on top of this intra-familial battle, let’s see if older or newer is better.

Audi RS 3 vs Audi S3

“What will happen in a drag race between the new Audi S3 and the old RS 3?” asks Watson. “We’re gonna find out by racing them over the standing quarter-mile.”

The new S3’s turbo-four delivers 310 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque to the corners via a seven-speed auto and the quattro system. The older RS 3, meanwhile, packs a turbo-five with 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Both weigh exactly 3,472 pounds, and both were priced about the same in their respective time periods. However, the S3’s engine sounds muted through its exhaust, while the RS 3 sounds more alive. A sign of what’s to come?

Audi RS 3 vs Audi S3

“Back in the day, cars sounded better,” said Watson of the RS 3. “Especially five-cylinder units, like in that car. It’s one win to that. Let’s see what happens in the drag race. Hopefully, I can restore some faith in modern cars.”

Nope. On the first go, Watson fluffs the gear change, allowing the RS 3 to soundly beat its younger S3 self. However, he returns the favor on the second run, just by moving off the muddy bits at the line. The final run saw both cross the finish in 12.7 seconds, though the older RS 3 beat the new S3 by a nose.

Audi RS 3 vs Audi S3

Next up: the rolls. The RS 3’s turbo-five pulls away to take the first win while the S3 was in comfort mode. The S3 wins the second roll after the RS 3’s gear changes didn’t work in the older car’s favor. The third and final roll is all RS 3, though, thanks to that turbo-five.

However, the final win would go to the S5. On the emergency stop, the newer Audi stopped in less distance than the older RS 3. As Watson says, “new car brakes better than the old.”

2012 Audi RS 3

“[The RS 3] was written off, and has been rebuilt,” said Watson. “And some of the horses may have escaped in that process, who knows. Whereas this [S3] is brand new.”

While the new S3 stops better, the RS 3’s extra cylinder means it can keep up, if not surpass the new machine. Time marches on, indeed.

Click HERE to join the AudiWorld forums!

Cameron Aubernon’s path to automotive journalism began in the early New ’10s. Back then, a friend of hers thought she was an independent fashion blogger.

Aubernon wasn’t, so she became one, covering fashion in her own way for the next few years.

From there, she’s written for: Louisville.com/Louisville Magazine, Insider Louisville, The Voice-Tribune/The Voice, TOPS Louisville, Jeffersontown Magazine, Dispatches Europe, The Truth About Cars, Automotive News, Yahoo Autos, RideApart, Hagerty, and Street Trucks.

Aubernon also served as the editor-in-chief of a short-lived online society publication in Louisville, Kentucky, interned at the city’s NPR affiliate, WFPL-FM, and was the de facto publicist-in-residence for a communal art space near the University of Louisville.

Aside from her contributions to Audi World, Aubernon can be found all through the IB Auto Group family, including 6 Speed Online, LS1Tech, and Team Speed. She also has her own independent automotive blog, Aubernon Highway.

Aubernon can be reached through her public Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. She is wary of those she doesn’t already know, though; thus, she may not respond to messages sent.

Aubernon is a member of the International Motor Press Association, and the Washington Automotive Press Association.