The Nurburgring Nordschleife is one of the longest, most intimidating and most iconic race tracks in the world. Nicknamed “The Green Hell”, the track has a challenging and sometimes deadly reputation.
The Nordschliefe, or “north circuit” is a fiercely undulating 12.9-mile lap through dense pine forests, and features almost 1,000 feet of elevation change. It’s regularly open to the public, and petrolheads around the world dream of one day pitting their skills against its famous curves. However, the Nurburgring has also become one of the most extensively used proving grounds in the world for car makers. In fact, a fast Nurburgring lap time has become a key reference point for manufacturers when comparing cars to rivals and competing for bragging rights.
Recently, the Nurburgring underwent changes in ownership and rules. In 2014, Russian billionaire Viktor Kharitonin bought a majority stake in the track after the facility went up for sale. Plus, for around nine months between June 2015 and March 2016, speed restrictions were put in place for some users on certain sections following a fatal accident at the Nurburgring 6-hours VLN race. The speed limits have now been removed, so the public and car makers can once again go all out to get that ultimate lap time.
Recently, competition to set the Nurburgring lap time record for front-wheel drive production cars has become particularly fierce. From early 2014, hot hatch contenders from the likes of SEAT, Renault and Honda have fought to claim that sought-after benchmark lap time. We say ‘production car’ in the broadest sense because manufacturers have typically developed ‘special edition’ versions of their fast hatchbacks with extensive weight-saving measures specifically to attack the Nurburgring lap record.
The SEAT Leon Cupra 280 set a very impressive benchmark of 7:58.4 in March 2014, then Renault bettered that with a time of 7:54.36 in the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R. However, between May 2014 and 2016, the all-new Honda Civic Type R held the title as the fastest front-wheel drive production car on sale, at 7:50.63.
After two years at the top of the pile, though, it was inevitable that a rival would take the Type R’s throne. This time, it was Volkswagen - with the new VW Golf GTI Clubsport S model, the Nordschliefe FWD production car lap record now stands at 7:49.21.
The front-wheel drive lap record may have become more of a thing in recent years but the real kings of the ‘Ring are the cars challenging for the overall production car mark.
It never takes too long after the covers are drawn back on a new hypercar or extreme track weapon for the question of its Nurburgring lap time to be raised. How quickly can the newcomer can complete a lap of the tortuous circuit and where does that place it in the list of the fastest production laps of all time?
Below are the fastest Nurburgring Nordschleife laps as they stand now…
10. Chevrolet Corvette C6 Z06 – 7:22.68
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The Corvette C6 Z06 is one rung down the Corvette C6 performance ladder from the ZR1, with ‘only’ 505bhp from its all-American V8 powerplant - but it was only 3 seconds slower around the lap when the cars were tested together in June 2011.
9. Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 – 7:19.63
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The Corvette C6 ZR1 is a car with a 638bhp V8 and Nurburgring pedigree that you can pick up for a fraction of the price of most European supercars, but that didn’t stop it showing them the way around the Nordschleife with a 7:19.63s lap in 2012.
8. Donkervoort D8 RS – 7:14.89
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The Donkervoort D8 RS (D8 GT pictured) looks like a Caterham Seven on steroids but a 267bhp turbocharged 1.8-litre Audi engine brings supercar performance levels out of the lightweight machine. The second and fastest of the car’s two lightning Nurburgring lap times was set in 2006.
7. Lexus LFA Nurburgring Package – 7:14.64s
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The Lexus LFA is an engineering masterclass by Toyota with a carbonfibre body and a purpose-built V10 engine that revs to 9,000rpm. The Nurburgring Package models feature a 10bhp power boost to 563bhp, a recalibrated transmission and various other tweaks. It lapped the ‘ring in 7:14.64s back in 2011.
6. Dodge Viper ACR – 7:12.13
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The Dodge Viper SRT10 has the kind of bonnet that can only hide a 600bhp V10 and that’s exactly what the ACR version used to attack the Nurburgring in 2011. With weight-saving modifications, enhanced aerodynamics and retuned suspension, the ACR model set a formidable 7:12.13s lap.
5. Gumpert Apollo Sport – 7:11.57s
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Awkwardly named and awkward to look at, the Gumpert Apollo makes up for any perceived lack of finesse with brutish pace. The Sport version set a 7:11.57 lap in 2009 powered by a 710bhp a twin-turbo V8 engine.
4. Nissan GT-R Nismo – 7:08.69s
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Nissan claims that the 7:08.69s lap time recorded by its monstrous 2015 GT-R Nismo is a Nurburgring lap record for a ‘volume production car’.
It’s certainly a more affordable and usable prospect than the majority of cars on this list but the record breaking GT-R Nismo was furnished with various “track options” to save weight and improve aerodynamics. The Nurburgring lap time is all about bragging rights, so who can blame Nissan for trying?
3. Lamborghini Aventador SV - 6.59.73s
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Lambos have traditionally been about noise and theatre rather than outright track pace. But things are changing, and the new 'SV' version of the Aventador hypercar has made a huge statement by blasting into the 'Ring podium finishers. A time of 6.59s puts it only two seconds behind the vastly more expensive Porsche 918.
600 examples of the 740bhp Aventador SV will be built, with a UK pricetag of £285,000. It shaves 50kg off the standard Aventador's kerbweight and, judging by this time, has had some serious chassis tuning.
2. Porsche 918 Spyder (Weissach Package) – 6:57s
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While McLaren was being unusually coy about the Nurburgring lapping prowess of its P1 hybrid hypercar (it will only say that the P1 has done a sub 7-minute lap), Porsche rocked up and clocked a 6:57s lap in its 918 Spyder. It's the first of the 'Big Three' to post an official time, giving the LaFerrari and P1 something to aim for.
With a combined 875bhp and 944lb ft of torque from its petrol-electric powertrain, the all-wheel-drive machine blitzed the ‘ring in September 2013.
1. Radical SR8 LM – 6:48s
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The 450bhp V8-engined Radical SR8 stretches the definition of a road-legal production car to the limit with a 690bhp per tonne power to weight ratio.
It looks like a race car and you certainly wouldn’t attempt to use one on the school run but it ticks the necessary boxes to qualify and completed an incredible 6:48s lap in 2009 to install itself at the top of the Nurburgring lap record tree.
Radical has actually held the Nurburgring production car lap record since 2005 when a standard SR8 recorded a 6:55s time. That remains the second fastest lap ever but for how long? Over to you, Ferrari LaFerrari and Konigsegg One:1. And come on McLaren, spill the beans on the P1's lap time - we know you want to.