The “tuner” badge is usually worn by youngsters with an interest in entry-level sports cars, and as they move into middle age, they often change their ways. Some amble into middle age and sell their S2000 for a minivan, and those that retain their need for speed sometimes move into something more distinguished: something German and four-doored, usually. However, there are some whose love for speed and modification don’t die easily, and if they begin to bring home a little more bacon as they ease into middle age, they keep in touch with their roots by modifying not another hopped-up tuner toy, but a bonafide Audi R8 supercar.
One such man is Clement Ng, who wanted his German supercar to be more of a streetable race car. It’s rare to see an Audi R8 modified to this extent—and even rarer to then see it properly thrashed on the circuit. No garage queen, this R8 sees regular action at tracks in the Pacific Northwest, and this heated duel with a track-specific NB Miata demonstrates the punch of the R8’s 4.2-liter V8, as well as the limitations of massive power at a tight track.
Now spitting out 600 horsepower at the rear wheels courtesy of twin turbochargers, this Audi outpunches anything to roll off of Audi’s factory floor. Plus, this particular car wears the skin of its more athletic sibling; a carbon widebody kit from an actual R8 LMS was sourced from Japan at great expense, fitted, and left unpainted. Underneath the carbon weave of the broadened haunches, Advan wheels shod in Toyo Proxes help provide the stick, as do the top-dollar JRZ shocks, Swift springs, and HybridAir system.
Something this exotic should have no issue dusting a mere Miata, but the Mazda’s received some choice modifications to make it a force to be reckoned with. Gone is the BP motor, and in its place is a K24 from an Acura TSX. With a few breather modifications, the high-revving powerplant produces roughly 250 horsepower at the rear wheels with plenty of VTEC surge in the upper revs.
Now, obviously that figure can’t give the Miata any hope of matching the force-fed Audi on straightaways, but The Ridge Motorsports Park is sinuous, technical, and perfect for a nimble Miata. Aiding it on this occasionally tight but fast track are Panda Racing coilovers, Swift springs, lightweight Volk TE37 wheeels, Wilwood Dynalite brakes, and a few aero pieces from Spoon. It’s a potent package that, with the talented Kodamu at the wheel, manages to punch above its weight at The Ridge.
The aluminum Honda motor helps provide scalpel-sharp turn-in, so getting the Mazda’s snub nose down to the apex in the many long decreasing-radius corners at The Ridge is never a huge challenge. Traction is strong, even out of hairpins, though wheelspin is always possible. That agility and manageable power is best demonstrated in Turn 6, where the Miata stretches ahead by a few car lengths (1:20). While it should be added that Kodamu is a slightly smoother steerer and ekes a few extra miles an hour through that long left, administering some 600 horsepower with turbocharged torque must be a challenge for Clement.
Without a doubt, it’s the Miata that excels on The Ridge’s tighter latter half and keeps the carbon-clad Audi from streaking away before it inevitably does down the front straight (2:45). Power is an advantage at this track, but the Miata manages to stay in touch in slower corners, namely through Turns 7-8, where a better line and far less torque allow it to claw back. When the Audi’s given a chance to stretch its legs, it pulls away in supercar fashion, and even completes the lap with a lurid powerslide onto the front straight.
We’ve seen some pretty enticing Miata swaps before, but being able to keep in touch with a six-figure supercar with top-dollar track mods has to be the loudest ringing endorsement the K24 swap has ever had.