“Supercars are too fast these days,” a friend of mine recently moaned. But just how quick are the very fastest ones?
How many years would you have to spool back for a current supercar - let’s say the McLaren 620R we featured recently - to be quicker than a Formula One car? Twenty, thirty?
How much money would you need to spend in order to be able to buy a road car that could do a number on Ayrton Senna’s 1988-era McLaren MP4/4 or Nigel Mansell’s 1986 Williams FW11? Or how about Niki Lauda’s 1976 Ferrari 312T?
McLaren has stated a slick-shod 620R laps in the same time as the 570S GT4 car upon which it’s based, so that means a 2m11s lap of Circuit Paul Ricard.
For some measure of perspective, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-Benz W10 F1 car will lap that track in 1m32s, some 30 per cent quicker. So that’s the baseline, to find a time when F1 cars were, on a track like Paul Ricard, 30 per cent slower than today.
And that’s the tricky bit.
There isn’t a circuit on the F1 calendar that’s in the same layout now compared to 40 years ago, even if you just stick to the classics.
Silverstone is almost unrecognisable, Spa has been tinkered with, as has Monaco. Monza’s gone through three variations since Lauda was racing there in 1975.
Nürburgring has been the same since 2002, so let’s have a look at that. A 620R would lap that in 2m6s, whereas Rubens Barrichello managed a 1m32s back in 2002.
Hmmm. Still 27 per cent quicker.
It’s becoming clear that while we know that modern F1 cars are crazily quick, even old ones are mind-scramblingly rapid.
How about Suzuka? Not a lot has changed there since 1987. Slowing 130R down and speeding the Casio Chicane up virtually cancelled each other out, yet Alain Prost’s 1m43s lap back in 1987 obliterates modern tackle like the 2m17s lap by a Koenigsegg One:1.
The gold standard for circuits that never change is Goodwood, but here’s the thing. Nobody knows what the ultimate lap record is.
It’s rumoured that Nelson Piquet broke a minute in his 1983 Brabham BT52. There’s some conjecture about this, because apparently he didn’t bother with Lavant, the only real corner on the track, and just kept his foot in at over 240km/h on the grass.
We do know that the ‘official’ lap record was set some 54 years ago when Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart both lapped in 1m20.4s during the final F1 race before the circuit shut its doors for 30 years.
A new 911 GT3 is still around five seconds off that time, so you’d need something very serious to get near it.
This issue isn’t short of contenders, and the McLaren 765LT might be in with a chance.
So, until somebody proves otherwise, road cars are still yawningly slow, from this stringent perspective at least.
The cream of the current crop might approach an F1 car, but know that it’d be one half a century old, running on grooved crossplies.
Supercars too quick? That’s Luddite talk. The throttle pedal’s not a switch, you have the option of playing on a circuit and you certainly can’t face down progress.