One of the best manual transmissions ever put on the market was the gated six-speed in the first-generation Audi R8. That silken, row-your-own warrior departed to the afterlife with the introduction of the second-gen car in 2015, replaced by a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. But if money can resurrect whole and long-dead car brands, it shouldn’t have any problem with a few hunks of metal in a bell housing, no? It won’t, so long as there’s a well-heeled customer on one side, Underground Racing on the other, and a 2020 Audi R8 Decennium in the middle. Oh yeah, and a couple of turbos.
The Dallas-based customer owned one of the 222 R8 Decennium special editions that Audi produced to commemorate a decade of the 5.2-liter V10 and motorsports success — only 50 of the cars came to America, each producing 602 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. He requested a twin-turbo kit from Charlotte, North Carolina-based Underground Racing, the shop specializing in R8 and Lamborghini builds. While they were toiling in back of the car, he also requested they swap that dual-clutch for a manual. The result is a riotously double-boosted V10 with 1,500 horsepower and six forward ratios chosen by hand. Underground Racing told Road & Track they started with the gearbox from a 2012 Audi R8 and reworked it with custom parts to make it fit, manage the power, and be daily-drivable. The task also involved installing a JRR engine management system to shepherd the reconfigured drivetrain.
In the cabin, UR removed the square section that houses the seven-speed dual-clutch shifter, replacing it with what looks like a custom fabbed gate giving off Ferrari vibes. It’s quite nice. Intriguingly, the R8 retains its paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. UR says these paddles have been equipped with “rolling antilag,” plus “launch control, drift mode, and more.” Curiouser and curiouser. The R8 Decennium was finished off with tweaks like a custom billet intake and custom-finished, center-lock wheels mimicking those on the Huracán Performante,
With one six-speed conversion done, UR says it’s ready to do the same for any other manual-craving R8 owners, but the swap can only be added onto a twin-turbo kit. That means spending at least $49,000 for the Base Twin Turbo System that takes an R8 up to 800 wheel horsepower on 93 pump gas, before adding the cost of the manual transmission work. Underground Racing says it will release pricing for the six-speed manual kit soon, and we assume the new gearbox will be included in UR’s two-year, 24,000-mile warranty for peace of mind along with power and proper shifting.