Mike Stevens | Aug 5, 2008

There's been a lot of talk of late, and growing competition between car companies, about who holds the fastest lap times around some extremely long old racing circuit in the Eiffel mountains of Germany. It's got to the point where it's faintly ridiculous.

Let's have a look at the state of things in Nurburgring times.

When it comes to racing, old Porsches dominate proceedings. The Group C 956 driven by Stefan Bellof back in 1983 sits at the top of the 'qualifying and racing time tree' in the mid 6 minute range (6:11 and 6:35 respectively). And, as no modern F1 car will likely ever be permitted to drive a track with such dangerous conditions, I doubt it will ever be surpassed. The only racing done on the Nordschleife now is endurance races by amateur touring cars, which have little hope of catching purpose-built super racers.

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What people care about now are production car times. Unfortunately, this is all a bit murky. One reason is due to the fact that it's very difficult to book the track out. On open days, the 2 kilometre-plus 'long straight' is not normally available as the circuit managers have set up their toll booth to correspond with the location of the pits. The almost-lap is referred to as "bridge to gantry" as there's a bridge walkway at the pit exit and a gantry near the beginning of the straight before the pit entrance. Companies who do manage to book the entire circuit will cross the same point twice to measure, but stick to the old track. Some people will include the new GP circuit as a part of their loop.

With three major configurations, you'll see wildly different times quoted.

Another variable is the definition of "production". To me, that conjures up an image of a car you could stroll into a dealer and buy. The reality is that, for a lot of these times, little tweaks get made. It also starts debates about whether you should draw the line between low volume, hand-built cars like the Radicals and Ariels of the world, compared to full-volume vehicles on a proper production line. Further debate then arises as to whether record holders, like the Pagani Zonda, can truly be considered "production" - being hand-built in similarly low volumes.

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Then there is the issue of manufacturers claiming lap times which others, magazines and testers, have been unable to replicate. Part of that could be the driver and the track conditions. Part of it could be the manufacturers simply lying. Most likely however it is the configuration of the car.

In the much-vaunted Cadillac CTS-V, what's not really shown in the provided video is that the soon-to-be-released "production" car is running a racing seat, cage, and cage-mounted safety harness. While it may not seem like much, being securely strapped into a seat that doesn't permit you to move around can shave the seconds on any lap (depending on how bad the original seats are).

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Cadillac, in that promotional video, claims that they're rolling on standard street tyres but plenty of manufacturers will swap to road legal R-Comp track day rubber, which in my experience can also gain you upwards of 2 seconds a minute on your average track. It's not known if the CTS running a production-spec exhaust, or brake pads, engine tune, pump fuel, or if the suspension has been set up for cornering rather than tyre life. There are myriad things you can do that will make a noticeable non-road-legal difference to its off-street performance, which aren't plainly obvious to the naked eye.

As such, we should take the following times with several grains of salt.

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The top of the current production car tree is the mighty Corvette ZR-1 at 7:26. Corvette claims that this is in full street trim, including using the standard Michelin Pilot Sport PS/2 tyres and wheel alignment specs. If so, that's an amazing time in what is a genuine production car.

If we're talking about saloons, then the BMW M3 is arguably the leader with a time implied by the M Division of 7:57. That time was claimed for the coupe and not the four door, but quite a few people still consider the car a saloon. If you insist on having four doors, then Audi's mental-sounding RS4 dominates the people-mover category at 8:09.

The fastest claimed time for a motorcycle is on a MV Agusta F4 312R at 7:21, ridden by a motorbike journo.

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I couldn't find a time for an SUV, but you'd have to assume that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo would have that in the bag. The only SUV I could see coming remotely close to challenging that time would be if BMW's M division releases a version of the upcoming X6.

At any rate, with more and more manufacturers contending for the record, I wouldn't expect any time to hold for long. Audi has already said they're aiming for the record with their V10 powered R8, and the Nissan GT-R Spec-V is said to make its launch at the end of the year.

I wouldn't even expect to see the Caddy's sedan record stand for long. With Nissan considering a super sedan based on the GT-R's PM platform and the Porsche Panamera practically living at the 'Ring right now, times will likely continue tumbling over the next few years.

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