Germany’s Nurburgring race track is worshipped by petrolheads around the world and many make the pilgrimage in their own cars on track days. But the appeal of the ‘Green Hell’ extends to manufacturers as well. New cars are often tested and developed on the Nordschliefe circuit with anything from supercars to hot hatchbacks aiming to topple a multitude Nurburgring lap records.
The 12.8-mile Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit features some of the most challenging stretches of tarmac in the world, and with almost 1,000 feet of elevation change as the track carves through a dense pine forest, squeezing every last tenth out of a flying lap is a task best reserved for elite drivers.
With the reputation of some performance cars relying heavily on ‘Ring times, the Nurburgring lap time is a valuable currency in the eyes of car brands and consumers so we’ve seen various companies claim Nordschleife records for everything from the aforementioned hot hatches and SUVs to ‘4-door cars’, estates and electric cars. The big one, of course is the Nurburgring production car lap record.
Whatever you think of this practice, the Nurburgring’s profile in the car world shows no sign of waning and we’ve got details of all the fastest cars of each type at the ‘Ring below…
Porsche smashed the overall lap record at the Ring with a time of 5:19.55 minutes in a 919 Hybrid Evo. The car is a development of the Le Mans prototype the German marque has raced competitively, and it hit a top speed of 229mph on its mind-blowing lap. The previous record, which had stood since 1983, was completed by Stefan Bellof in a Porsche 956 C which came in at 6:11.13 minutes. Competition to set the Nurburgring lap record among front-wheel drive production cars has become particularly fierce in recent years thanks to a new generation of hot hatches. We say ‘production car’ in the broadest sense of the term, as manufacturers often develop ‘special edition’ versions of their fast hatchbacks purely to attack the FWD Nurburgring lap record.
Manufacturers such as SEAT, Renault, Volkswagen and Honda have been battling it out for years, and Renault regained the crown in 2019 with the Megane R.S. Trophy R (having previously set the front wheel-drive record in 2014 with a Megane 275 Trophy-R). The 296bhp hot hatch clocked a lap time of 7:40.1 seconds, beating the old record set by the FK8 Honda Civic Type R by more than three seconds. The Trophy R is upgraded over the standard Megane R.S. with a freer-flowing Akrapovic exhaust system, Brembo brakes, new adjustable Ohlins suspension, lighter alloy wheels and a pair of carbon-backed Sabelt bucket seats. The rear seats have also been removed to help aid weight reduction. The Megane Trophy R is expensive for a hot hatch at around £50,000, but taking the Nurburgring record is an impressive way of showing its worth.
With SUVs stealing car sales from conventional family saloons, manufacturers are having to come up with exciting ways to attract buyers to more traditional saloon models. Which, amongst other things can include a fire-breathing, hell-raising performance version of the standard saloon.
The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 originally toppled the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio from the top of the saloon tables in 2017, with a time of 7:21.20. However, Jaguar went back for more in 2019 and the XE SV Project 8 managed to knock 2.8 seconds off its previous time,