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Ring Kings - The fastest Nurburgring lap times

Lee Stern
24 Jul 2017

Take a look at a roundup of the top ten fastest cars to have lapped the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife

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The Nurburgring Nordschleife: 12.9 miles and one hundred-plus corners snake through Nürburg's Eifel forest, presenting constant changes in gradient and articulation. Trying to visualise the next corner, as your vision blurs, under full throttle - speedo still climbing - you get the feeling the barriers are converging on you.

The Green Hell is an experience like no other, even at modest speeds. Going in search of lap records, then, is a serious and dangerous business. Here we take a look at the top ten fastest ever Nurburgring lap times recorded to date.

The Nurburgring Nordschleife serves a dual purpose for manufacturers. Once purely the testbed for developmental work, the Ring has gone on to become an automotive benchmark by which potential buyers of the planet's top performance cars judge those products. The kudos and marketing weight attached to a fast Nurburgring lap time is hugely valuable, granting ultimate bragging rights and bringing customers to showroom floors.

It's a unique test of a car and not necessarily one that points to exceptional performance on the road. Some manufacturers dismiss it, and the Nurburgring itself has come under scrutiny over safety in recent times, but there's no doubt that this special circuit retains a firm grip on the imagination of performance car enthusiasts. A car that excels there gains instant respect and the manufacturers keep coming in search of a fast time.

Nurburgring laps: selected recent times

To give you a point of reference on the spectrum of speed, here are the times of some assorted production cars that tackled the fabled circuit. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S is a former holder of the front-wheel drive 'ring record – one that in recent years has become hotly contested by manufacturers of hot hatchbacks.

Subaru might claim to have beaten the saloon car time around the Ring, but the WRX STI used to set the 6min 57.5sec time is essentially a full-blown race car. Instead the honour of fastest four-door around the Ring goes the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio with a time of 7min 32sec, beating the Volvo S60 Polestar’s 7min 51.1sec.

Top 10 Nurburgring lap times

Below is a rundown of the ten quickest laps of both road legal and exclusively track-bred metal. A brave few drivers have piloted cars round the circuit in sub-seven minute times, with those cars averaging over 110mph over the course of the lap.

10. Dodge Viper ACR-X - 7:03.06

Perhaps considered an antiquated entity by European standards, especially in its first generation, the Dodge Viper is no slouch. Fast forward to the current generation and the American manufacturer has delivered a version capable of phenomenal track-based feats, producing an even more extreme adaptation of the crazy ACR.

The engine in the ARC-X measures up at 8.4-litres. All 640 horses alarmingly fire the car past 150mph, at which point it generates just shy of 500kg of downforce. Such aerodynamic enhancements were surely key to the impressive time collected by the sole American offering found in this list.

9. Lamborghini Aventador SV - 6:59.73

Shod in Pirelli’s most track focused P Zero rubber, the angriest bull in Lamborghini’s stable just crept into the sub-seven club. The raucous 740bhp V12, squeezed between the driver and the central exit quad exhaust, went some way to landing the SV fifth place in eCoty 2015.

On our test we couldn’t get enough of the raw supercar spirit flowing through the spaceship lookalike. 'In a world where the outer limits of supercars are becoming more accessible, the SV remains a thrilling proposition.' With serious performance pent up within the carbon chassis, this is a supercar true to the meaning and a Ring conqueror.

8. Ferrari 599XX - 6:58.16

A car destined only for the track, not at your discretion nor the law’s, but on the say-so of a higher power: Ferrari. Born out of Ferrari’s XX programme, this stripped-backed, pumped-up 599 arrives at the track courtesy of a courier, with a band of Ferrari mechanics in tow to support the day's track action. Then they’ll take it away again, back to its secret dehumidified hangar.

In 2010 the Maranello-based circus arrived at the Ring to set a time worthy of the badge. It did just that: the 599XX crossed the line almost half a second quicker than Niki Lauda's 1975 Ferrari 312T F1 car.

7. Porsche 918 Spyder - 6:57 (Weissach Package)

Porsche’s hypercar is the only member of the hypercar "holy trinity" to brave its home nation circuit. Assimilating a myriad of cutting-edge, automotive technology the 918 exploits these collaborative systems to great effect.

Stepping in as the flagship model for the Stuttgart manufacturer, replacing the the Carrera GT, the successor managed to shave over thirty seconds off the Carrera GT’s time. The 6:57 time still stands unchallenged by the LaFerrari and McLaren P1.

6. Lamborghini Huracan Performante - 6:52

Lamborghini has released data of a new production car lap record, even before the car in question has been shown to the public. The new Huracan Performante, due to be revealed at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, went round the Ring in 6:52, toppling the vastly more powerful Porsche 918 by over five seconds according to a teaser video released by Lamborghini.

Apart from the lap time, we know little else about the Performante, aside from its use of new era carbonfibre forged composites, active aerodynamics and same basic 5.2-litre V10 engine. Expected to have a slight increase of power over the standard Huracan LP610-4, the extraordinary lap time was set by works Lamborghini GT3 driver Marco Mapelli in October of 2016.

5. Radical SR8 LM - 6:48.28

In Formula 1, bending and stretching of rules is the road to success. Radical took a leaf out of the F1 playbook producing - a barely road legal - Nurburgring record-setter. The SR8 LM was briefly the curator of the road-legal lap record, only to be undercut by a few painstaking tenths, by the £1.5 million Zonda R.

What it may lack in raw sex appeal next to a Zonda it more than compensates for in performance. The 650kg, open-top, British racer’s 6:48 effort is incredibly impressive when you look the competition it places alongside on the Ring leaderboard.

4. 991.2 Porsche 911 GT2 RS - 6:47.3

Porsche's latest triumph on the 'Ring has come courtesy of the 991.2 911 GT2 RS, officially the fastest Porsche 911 ever and now record holder of the fastest lap in a production road-legal car. The fact that the GT2 RS effectively started life as a docile four-seat sports car speaks volumes about the inherant quality of the 911's chassis, but also the talents of the development engineers that pour their hearts and souls into projects like the GT2 RS. 

3. Pagani Zonda R - 6:47

In 2010 Horacio Pagani sent the most hardcore iteration of Zonda to test its performance in a fearsome racing environment. Harbouring componentry that went on to underpin the Huyara, the Zonda R was well armed. Countering the weight of the considerable 7.3-litre AMG sourced engine, was a sparing use of carbonfibre, which saw the R tip the scales at 1,070kg (dry).

Keeping all 740bhp on the black-stuff was a sculpted body channeling air towards the rear wing, sucking the R to the asphalt. The incredible downforce meant the track-ready Zonda could generate 1.62g of lateral G and the ability to attack corners mercilessly. The recipe that created Zonda R was such a succes that for a while it held the non-production, and production lap records for the Nurburgring.

2. NIO EP9 - 6:45.9

Internal combustion fans are allowed to shed a little tear now - the Nurburgring lap record is held by a pure electric car. Well, it was. The NIO EP9 had a brief tenure at the top of this list, absolutely smashing the 'ring record with a time of 6:45.9. The Chinese-built EP9 is a pure electric monster which produces 1,341bhp. 

Though a previous attempt at this record saw the EP9 return a 7:05.1 lap back in October, that visit was marred by bad weather, and after claiming a pair of lap records at the Circuit of the Americas in February the car is back, eclipsing its previous mark by an amazing 19s. The EP9 is built to order and carries a £1.15m price tag, and with such an accolade now behind it, orders may begin to flood in.

1. McLaren P1 LM - 6:43.2

The P1 LM proves that while electricity is helpful, it doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all. With almost 800bhp coming from its 4.0-litre V8 and a further 200 provided by electric motors, the P1 LM managed an incredible lap time of 6:43.2 - nearly three seconds down on the time set by the NIO EP9.

To make things even better, the P1 LM that set the lap time immediately drove home from the Nurburgring to the UK afterwards - on public roads. The time was run on road-legal Pirelli Trofeo tyres, and the LM has a number of weight-saving measures over even the standard P1 GTR - lightweight seats, titanium tailpipes and the removal of race parts like the air-jack system. We wonder what will be next to take the LM's place at the top of the charts.

Conclusion

However important these lap times may be, they don’t provide conclusive comparative results. Often, published lap times emanate from attempts undertaken by entities external to manufacturers, as well as cross-manufacturer testing. In 2008, Porsche sent a Nissan GT-R out to the Nurburgring citing a time of 7:54, some 25-seconds slower than Nissan’s official time.

The backdrop to Nissan’s quicker time will have entailed a hoard of mechanics and engineers overseeing proceedings, ensuring the GT-R is primed to set the fastest time possible. Contrast that to Porsche’s test, where the GT-R won’t have had the same benefits, and a significantly slower time arises. From an outside perspective it becomes difficult to determine the car's true, representative performance.

Ultimately, a car’s Nurburgring time stamp isn’t the overriding performance metric due the ambiguity surrounding the recorded times. This though, doesn’t stop manufacturers engaging in lap time battles and looking to create the fastest thing around the Nurburgring.

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