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Does anybody believe in Nurburgring laptimes anymore?

By Andy Enright, 11 Jan 2019 Opinion

Does anybody believe in Nurburgring laptimes anymore?

Let’s face it. Things have got a bit silly at the Green Hell

THE NURBURGRING production car lap record has become a joke.

Perhaps it always was. Even in 1996, when the Nissan Skyline GT-R’s sub-8 minute lap punted this metric into the broader public conscience, Dirk Schoysman’s car was some way removed from showroom specification.

Car manufacturers have been testing at the Green Hell a long time. According to Karl Ludwigsen in his book ‘Excellence Was Expected’, Porsche was timing its production cars at the ‘Ring way back in the 1950s.

Read next: 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS vs 919 Hybrid Evo Nürburgring lap record comparison

At that time, ten minutes was a dementedly rapid mark for a street-legal car and only very focused models like the 550 Spyder could dip under that mark.

It took Nissan to understand the marketing capital in a Nurburgring laptime and the corrupting effect of filthy lucre has tainted the concept of a ‘definitive’ time ever since.

Jamal Hameedi, the former chief engineer of Ford’s Global Performance Vehicles who now works at Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division, explained why the Blue Oval never timed the Mustang GT500 around the circuit.

“Ring times? Oh man, don’t even get me started on this topic,” Hameedi said.

“These times being posted by many manufacturers are, in my humble opinion, akin to qualifying times being set at a race with no pre or post inspection.

“In order for us to set an official time, corner weights would have to be taken, calibrations check sums need to be verified, engine power verified, a hoist inspection, and probably a fuel sample taken by an independent third party.”

“The reason we test at the Ring is because it is a fantastic venue for doing vehicle dynamics work,” he says.

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“You get so much different content in terms of turns, elevation, etc that you would need to visit five different tracks to duplicate it.”

It’s just the lap times with which Ford has a problem. “Our view is that there is no such thing as an official manufacturer ‘Ring time.”

Hameedi reckons the comparisons between different performance cars “need to be done on the same day by a professional driver, too.”

Porsche’s GT boss Andreas Preuninger, a man whose department has turned out several cars that trumpet their prowess on a certain ribbon of Eifel bitumen, is unconvinced that Ring records result in better road cars.

"There are a lot of people who aren’t looking at the stopwatch when they’re on the track and they just want the interaction and they want a driver’s car,” he said.

“This is the reason why we left the route of being the quickest on the Nurburgring and only thinking about lap times. I don’t care that the competition is a little bit faster around the ‘Ring...to be honest with you, if you have a car with the perfect setup for the Nurburgring, it will be a dog on the street and everywhere else."

Even if you can set a new mark, it’s often tinged with suspicion. Just ask Lamborghini, whose Huracan Performante video was attacked by online commentators as a fake.

Sant’Agata was forced to release the raw telemetry data days later to prove its innocence.

Read next: Nordschleife at night: One lap from the Nürburgring 24-Hour

Even with hard data, there are so many variables a manufacturer has to contend with. Are the tyres legal and available for the car, were they shaved down to remove tread, does it use a roll cage, is the back seat removed, is it one standard springs and dampers, is the engine boosting harder than usual? Without any kind of independent oversight, there’s no way to tell. And that’s why Nurburgring records are the stuff of nonsense.

The Nurburgring is a brilliant place for sensible vehicle development. It’s a road, with a crown, cambers and variable surfacing/elevation. As such those who claim that the Nurburgring, in and of itself, is ruining road cars are making a strange point.

Want more? Nurburgring lap record beefs and controversies: A brief history

They’re arguing, in effect, that a road ruins road cars. Ill-advised marketing and chasing a setup for the sort of driving that none of us will likely ever do ruins road cars. It’s time for the data loggers to be retired before a test driver is killed at the Green Hell trying to generate fictional bragging rights.

Perhaps the answer is either an independent overseeing body – and German magazine Sport Auto would probably already claim to be it – or more transparency around Nurburgring record attempts.

As it stands, there's a lot of risk for ever decreasing rewards. Punters have wised up and aren't buying it any longer. We'd relish a manufacturer to really come clean about the full nuts and bolts behind a Ring lap but we're not optimistic on that particular score.

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Have Nurburgring lap records become a joke?