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


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

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: 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.

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