A reader writes: “Would it matter if car makers no longer set lap times on the Nürburgring?”
To recap: at the moment, there are speed limits on certain sections of the German race track following a fatal racing accident this year. So car makers can’t now set lap times for road cars, and there’s some uncertainty about whether it’ll stay that way.
Reader, though, might have a point. His thinking is that, if you ditch the lap time flag waving, you ditch cars being timed on a racetrack, which is good because even though the Nordschleife is twisty and bumpy, unless your name’s Sabine or Walter, it’s not representative of the places you drive very often.
I agree, but I’d still worry. Car makers like an opportunity to tell you how fast their car is, relevant or not. Hence 0-60mph times – less relevant than they once were, but still some kind of benchmark we understand.
Even if manufacturers don’t like being overtly transparent against other machines, they’ll tell you how fast cars are on their own test circuits.
So ’Ring or not, we’ll end up being quoted relative lap times anyway. And when it comes to performance cars, I’d buy the argument that there is relevance to it. I think there’s merit in knowing that the latest hypercar trio – the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari – are probably, there or thereabouts, as quick around a circuit as a late 1970s/early 1980s Formula 1 car.
The three of them were together at the Goodwood Festival of Speed the other week in the Supercar Runs, on which I commentate. And I think Lord March, boss of Goodwood, would quite fancy a new performance benchmark being up the hill at his gaff, hence a timed Supercar Shootout on Saturday afternoon. A Noble M600 won it from the Lexus LFA and Aston Martin Vantage GT12. Annoyingly, the hypercars declined to be timed.
Perhaps that’s because a 50sec run where there’s little more than a quarter turn of the wheel in either direction isn’t that enlightening, and because driver error is amplified tenfold because the distance is so short.
The same could be true of the handling circuit we use at MIRA proving ground, hence we average several laps. And that remains, Nürburgring aside, the best and most diverse handling circuit I’ve driven.
Still, I suspect car makers won’t be able to stop themselves finding a track, in which case they might as well use the most challenging. We might be careful what we wish for if we hope the Nordschleife remains out of action. Better cars are benchmarked there than somewhere even less representative.
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