Another bleedin’ attempt to set a record lap time at the Nürburgring. Here we go again. Yawnarama. Except that this one might actually be a bit special.
The other month, Porsche took its 919 Hybrid LMP1 endurance racing car and removed from it lots of the bits that made it comply with the regulations it used to compete under.
So instead of its 2.0-litre turbocharged V4 engine making around 500bhp, derestricted it now makes over 700bhp. And the electric motors that are attached to it add nearly another 450bhp, up 10%. The weight is down by 40kg to under 850kg. Downforce is up by half.
And in April, the 919 Hybrid ‘Evo’ lapped Spa in 1min 41.77sec, faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole time for the 2017 Belgian GP. It clocked 223mph on the straight as it did so.
Last week, it was testing at the Nordschleife, creating speculation about how fast it might go. “Timo Bernhard (two-time Le Mans winner, driving) loves that track... perhaps he comes again,” said Porsche, not- terribly-cryptically, to suggest that a flat-out timed run is still to come.
The current lap record is 6min 11.3sec, set by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956 in 1983; still regarded, quite rightly, as an extraordinary lap.
Already, though, today’s cars are approaching that time. The circuit is faster now than it was then, no question, but in qualifying for this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, which uses the Nordschleife and modern GP tracks combined, it took a Porsche 911 GT3 R race car around 6min 30sec to complete the northern loop.
At Spa, the 919 Hybrid Evo was 27% faster than a 911 GT3 R. With a similar delta on the Nürburgring, then, the 919 would complete a lap in 4min 45sec. For 12.9 miles. Even if the time is shy of five minutes by a dozen seconds, that would be an average speed of 150mph.
Hence why I care about this particular lap time. Yes, it’s only a time trial and there’s no overtaking and there’s no strategy and, you might argue, ultimately, no point, but it is just so spectacularly fast that you have to take notice.
Besides, the purity is part of the appeal: nobody is trying to preserve their tyres or find a way around some regulatory loophole, or being held back by a balance of performance, or finding themselves ballasting their car up to a minimum weight limit. It is motorsport at its most perfect – a bunch of engineers, taking a car, and wondering: “How fast can it go?” Which is wonderful.