By: Andy Newbound
To many performance car enthusiasts worldwide, Germany’s legendary 12.9mile Nürburgring is the undisputed king of race tracks. No ordinary circuit, the Nürburgring Norsdchleife winds its way through the Eifel Forest, pitting speed-hungry drivers against a climbing, falling, twisting, turning roadway that challenges their skills and bravery with constant changes in surface articulation and gradient. For drivers and manufacturers alike, posting a Nürburgring fastest time is the ultimate accolade.
Surrounded on all sides by lush forest foliage, the Nürburgring has been affectionately christened ‘Green Hell’ by those who tussle with its turns and battle with its banks. Even at moderate speeds it remains one of the most testing and dangerous roads on the planet, claiming up to twelve lives each year. So you might be surprised to learn that it’s still a public toll road and, once drivers have stumped up around £20, they can get behind the wheel of their favourite vehicle and put it to the test.
For official high-speed Nürburgring lap times and manufacturer testing the road is closed, allowing drivers an unobstructed run at all 12.9 miles. These ‘clear’ laps have long been the benchmark for supercar performance: the faster the lap time, the higher the desirability factor.
Yet it isn’t just cars like the fabled McLaren F1 or Bugatti Veyron that take up the challenge. These days, popular manufacturers of everyday road cars pick up the gauntlet to find out which can produce the fastest Nürburgring lap. That’s why we’ve taken a close look at some of the Nürburgring’s fastest time laps, from cars you’d expect to set records and perhaps some that you might not. So, fasten your harness and let’s go.
According to the unwritten rules of the Nürburgring, a production car is exactly as it sounds – a car that has rolled off the production line and can be legally driven on the roads. Unlike their ‘non-production’ rivals, these cars are encumbered by boring extras such as indicators, number plates, airbags, windscreen wipers and the like. It’s for this reason that the fastest Nürburgring lap times are unlikely to match those of the more ‘liberated’ non-production speedsters. However, as we’ll soon see, some manufacturer’s occasionally bend the rules.
Chief among these rule-benders is Radical; the speed-obsessed upstarts from Peterborough. Although their SR8 was fitted with the requisite ‘legal’ minimum to allow it on British and European roads, and despite the fact that it was driven all the way from the UK factory to Eifel forest, many still dispute its ‘production’ classification.
Maybe they have a point. Or maybe rival manufacturers are simply envious of the production car Nürburgring fastest time record set by the high-powered roadster; a tyre-peeling 6 minutes 48 seconds. Only the iconic Zonda R has gone faster, and then by a mere smidgen of a second. No wonder true ‘production’ models can’t get near this time. And they’re a little sore about the fact too.
Pushing the Radical extremely close, and perhaps the true holder of the ‘Production’ car lap record, is the 631bhp Lamborghini Huracan Performante. If you have spare £213K you might be able to pick up one of these incredible 202mph supercars. Alternatively, you can watch the video and see for the exhilarating power of the Huracan’s V10; an engine that propelled this streamline dream machine around the Nürburgring’s twists and turns in what many regard as the ‘authentic’ fastest Nürburgring lap time.
Indeed, with just a few modifications, including lightweight carbon-forged materials, this ultimate Lamborghini used its responsive chassis, 4WD transmission and every drop of 600NM torque to shave a cool 7 seconds off the previous ‘legitimate’ record of 6min 59seconds; held by the Porsche 918 Spyder. With impressive handling, nimble cornering and a muscular V10 that purrs more than it growls, the Huracan has set a benchmark that in many people’s eyes makes it the fastest car around the Nürburgring. Over to you, Ferrari?
No brake or suspension-fettling shenanigans for Nissan’s GT-R Nismo on its last trip around the Nürburgring; just good old-fashioned engine power. Oh, and a little help from something called the Nismo N Attack Package. According to Nissan, this includes the addition of lightweight carbon-fibre front wings, four-way adjustable dampers and a much larger rear spoiler, making the GT-R more of an out-and-out track car than anything you’re likely to encounter trundling along the local fast food Drive-Thru lane.
However, the real secret to the Nismo’s Nürburgring lap time success is the car’s tarmac-tearing power. Behind the wheel, it looks like an ordinary road car (well, sort of.) But as soon as the driver’s foot caresses the pedal, the Nismo shows its true credentials. A four-wheel-drive drivetrain and intelligent torque vectoring rips this Nissan around the Nürburgring’s 12.9 mile ninety-two year old circuit in an incredible 7 minutes 8 seconds. Eat your heart out, Toyota.
Another close-to-home German behemoth is Stuttgart-based Mercedes. As you would expect, these guys were keen to post a circuit-scorching time and pulled out all the stops with their eye-popping AMG GT R. Although significantly less pimped-up than the Viper or the Radical (if you forgive the ‘Green Hell Magno’ paint job), the AMG GT R has had something of a performance-enhancing-injection beneath that green skin.
Mercedes’ clever boffins added a coilover suspension and aero-enhancing body parts to give the AMG GT R extra track savvy. They also fitted carbon ceramic brakes, plus a roll cage and harness to aid the driver. The result was a lighter car and a road-hugging drive, clocking a 7 minute 10 second Nürburgring lap time, that will have made it’s road-going rivals such as BMW and Audi as green as the AMG GT R’s paintwork.
Take the Radical and Huracan out of the equation and among the chasing pack is the growling, snarling, fire-breathing 600bhp Dodge Viper ACR. Powered by a thunderous 8.4-litre V10 engine, the ACR roared around the Nürburgring in just 7 minutes and 12 seconds.
However, one look at its ‘NASCAR’ style body kit and some could say there isn’t too much difference between this and the super-fast Radical. Still, to the majority of fuel-injected enthusiasts, the Dodge Viper ACR remains one of the ‘true’ benchmark setters for future production vehicles.
There’s no question that the Porsche 911 is one of the most iconic production cars ever built. The classic 911 is most people’s idea of the perfect sports car and it should come as no surprise to find the 911 powerhouse near the top of the best lap times.
Powered by a technologically advanced 542bhp engine, the GT2 RS employs four-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering, torque vectoring and a seven-speed paddle-shift gearbox to help navigate the Nürburgring’s deadly twists and turns at maximum velocity. The result is an asphalt-scorching 7 minutes 24 seconds; a reputation-enhancing run that only adds to the allure and desirability of this German legend.
For all the right reasons, road cars tend to be limited by safety regulations, minimum manufacturing standards and the need to be both comfortable and reliable. Non-production cars aren’t governed by the same restrictions. So what happens when manufacturers unshackle their engineers and let them go ‘speed’ crazy?
The answer to that question can be regularly found tearing around the Nürburgring’s 12.9 mile circuit, occasionally at record-breaking speeds. Let’s take a look at some of the most impressive performances:
For sheer record-breaking royalty, nothing comes close to the fastest ever lap time, recorded way back in 1983 by Stefan Bellof in his FIA World Sportscar Championship race-tuned Porsche 956. Weighing in at a svelte 800kg and fitted with a Type-935 2.65-litre turbocharged flat 6 engine, the car delivered 635bhp and a staggering top speed of 225mph.
This isn’t too much faster than the more recent Zonda, but it is clear that the Porsche’s superior downforce, advanced aerodynamics and F1-style handling gave it a monumental advantage. Today’s generation of race cars might be faster but none would be robust enough to survive the 12.9 mile circuit at high speed, so for the foreseeable future the Porsche 956’s Nürburgring fastest time of 6 minutes 11 seconds looks pretty much undefeatable.
Genuine super-car enthusiasts won’t be even the slightest bit surprised to find the Pagnani Zonda R holding the next fastest non-production car lap time; a spine-shivering 6 minutes 47 seconds. Watch the video to experience the sense of speed and power for yourself.
This shows what unharnessed design (and a £1.5million budget) can achieve, with Zonda’s engineers squeezing 739bhp from the Mercedes V12 engine and reaching a nerve-shredding top speed of 217mph. At a lightweight 1070kg, the Zonda’s awesome CLK GTR’s powertrain reaches an unrestricted 7500rpm to blast the car across the tarmac at hitherto unmatchable speeds.
Keen to get in on the high-speed act, Ferrari rocked up to the famous Nürburgring circuit with their ballistic 599XX. This was effectively a modified version of the street legal 599 GTB Fiorano (which had already clocked a slightly disappointing time of 7 minutes 47 seconds.)
Equipped with a rear wing and front and rear diffusers, plus an unrestricted V12 engine capable of 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and a lap speed of over 300kph, the 599XX scorched around the Green Hell circuit in an eyeball-grazing 6 minutes 58 seconds – almost a minute faster than the road legal Fiorano; making it the first ever production-derived sports car to break the 7-minute barrier.
The road-ready Dodge Viper had already registered a pulse-pumping lap time of 7m 12s, but for Dodge, this wasn’t enough. So they unleased their engineers’ creativity and gave them unrestricted permission to create a ‘monster’.
The result was the Viper ARC-X; a lighter machine with canards fitted to the front for greater axle grip and purpose-made exhaust headers designed to help tease out an extra 39bhp of grunt from the growling 8.4-litre V10 engine. It worked! The newly boosted ACR-X carved a whopping 9 seconds off the Viper’s fastest Nürburgring time, recording a pedal-flooring lap of just 7 minutes 3 seconds. Pretty close to dropping under the fabled 7 minute mark. Better luck next time, guys!
Toyota might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think about the elite of motorsport, but they do have a pretty good pedigree and they’re serious about speed. They are already making a name for themselves in the grueling LeMans challenge, yet what you might not know is that they are also known for turning heads at the Nürburgring.
Take their record-setting TMG EV P002, for example. This was the Japanese giant’s foray into electric supercar territory and, when the purpose-built 462bhp TMG EV P002 took to the tarmac for its fully electric lap in 2012, it shocked the world – knocking nearly half a minute off the previous Nürburgring fastest time and delivering an eye-popping lap time of only 7 minutes 22 seconds. It barely made a sound too.
Now for something a little more relatable – the hot hatch lap times. These are the Nürburgring steering-wheel notches that our favourite manufacturers like to boast about. And the kind of figures real enthusiasts roll out whenever they compare one icon with another. This is the ultimate proving ground for any car with turbo-charged ambitions.
Now, before you shake your head and wonder where things went wrong for the poor old Astra VXR, please remember that despite a little extra fettling, these hot hatches are still road cars and cannot hope to compete with thoroughbred supercars.
So a Nürburgring fastest time of 8 minutes and 35 seconds is mightily impressive for the kind of car that you could easily find sitting on your neighbour’s driveway. Vauxhall thought so too, celebrating by producing a limited edition run of 835 VXR Nürburgring special edition models.
In the eyes of most car-buying consumers, and probably the two manufacturers as well, Ford is Vauxhall’s deadly rival. So it won’t come as much of a shock that the North American behemoth produced a classic 2005 Ford Focus that matched the Astra’s fastest Nürburgring lap time exactly.
Nor will you be shocked to learn that they weren’t satisfied with that; later creating a 305bhp turbocharged four-pot Mk2 Focus RS that stripped 9 seconds off the Astra’s time and recorded a blistering lap of 8 minutes 26 seconds. The ball is now firmly back in Vauxhall’s court.
Despite posting relatively impressive times, neither the Astra VXR nor the Focus RS can hold a petrol burning flame to record-setting SEAT’s Leon Cupra. With a proven ability to take on the Nürburgring records and give it a whipping – SEAT’s ST Cupra 280 set the record for the fastest estate car (yes, there really is such a record) – SEAT next turned its attention to its Leon Cupra hatch.
Fitted with a 10bhp gaining performance-enhancing pack that included muscular Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, the Leon Cupra hared around the requisite 12.9miles in just 7 minutes 58 seconds. That’s the kind of time Ford and Vauxhall can so far only aspire to, yet it’s still not the quickest hatch. Not by some distance.
It’s a German track, so you’d expect German cars to figure highly in any ‘fastest’ list, right? After all, Deutsch engineering is famed the world over and German cars like BMW, Mercedes and Audi are amongst the most desirable. Add VW to that list and the legendary Golf GTI immediately springs to mind.
As Hot Hatches go, the Golf GTI has few peers on the road and it’s the same story around the Nürburgring. The Golf GTI Clubsport S was built to commemorate the hatchback’s 40 years on the road. Only 400 were ever made, each powered by a 306bhp 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo powered engine powerful enough to kick out a top speed of 165mph. This is the fastest ever Golf GTI and it held the Nürburgring record for the fastest ever lap by a front-wheel drive car until recently.
The coveted title of Nürburgring fastest time for a Hot Hatch goes hands down to the incredible 306bhp 2017 Honda Civic Type R. Not on the market until later this year, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder monster gave mightier machines such as the BMW M4, Mercedes SLS AMG and even the Lamborghini Murcielago a real run for their money. The attached video gives you a glimpse of the power that posted a sizzling lap time of 7 minutes and 43 seconds; making other hot hatch manufacturers boil green with envy.
Taking the title of fastest lap by a front-wheel drive car, the new Type R is a stunning piece of machinery with its menacing looks matched only by the brutish power of its engine. It will take something very special to knock the Type R off its mighty perch.
The Nürburgring ‘Green Hell’ circuit isn’t just the domain of track racers, supercars and record smashing Hot Hatches. Lap times have been recorded in all kinds of vehicles and we’ve included one or two of the more quirky attempts below.
Equipped with an off-the-shelf teeny 123bhp 1.6-litre engine, VW’s midget monster rocketed around the 12.9mile track in a very respectable 9 minutes 9 seconds. Best of all, this supermini is exactly the kind of car you would see rolling through your local Drive Thru. Just don’t try to keep up when it pulls away at the traffic lights.
Just as Toyota was basking in the glory of its TMG EV P002 setting the fastest lap time for an electric vehicle, along came the party-pooping NextEV N10 EP9 (what a catchy name). Using EP9’s Formula E engineering and design, the NextEV N10 EP9 chewed through a whopping 1341bhp to register a sparking lap time of just 7 minutes 5 seconds. That’s less than 20 seconds off the pace of the ballistic Zonda and just a whisker from dropping beneath the fabled 7 minute mark. We’re…well…shocked.
Finally, one of the most iconic vehicles ever to traverse the UK’s roads…and it’s not even a car. Expert Nürburgring driver Sabine Schmitz climbed behind the wheel of a Ford Transit van in 2005 and, with a little help from a pace-making Dodge Viper, clocked a highly respectable Green Hell lap of just 10minutes 8 seconds. No Nürburgring fastest time, but perhaps this explains why white van man is sometimes found hogging the outside lane on motorways.
When it comes to iconic tracks, the Nürburgring is difficult to beat; a tarmac serpent carving a monstrous path through the German countryside. The favourite testing ground of many manufacturers, legends are made at every turn, turns make their way into legend. Post a quick time here and you write your name into history.
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