Ben Griffin rounds up the fastest, most foolhardy and most fantastic things to have happened on the legendary Nurburgring.
Since the Nurburgring opened in 1927 it has seen F1 racing come and go, had its track layout adjusted and even faced closure and a sale in more recent times. It’s also played host to some truly magical moments in the history of automotive development. In this feature, we recap some of the most memorable occurrences on the 12.9-mile-long 172-corner stretch asphalt known affectionately as The Green Hell.
McLaren P1 joins the sub-seven club
McLaren sent the P1 supercar to master the Nurburgring and it did exactly that, its test driver achieving a blistering time quoted as being less than seven minutes. There’s no official word from McLaren on the exact time posted, but rumours suggest the British-built hybrid hypercar was able to beat its Porsche 918 rival by 10 full seconds. If that is in fact true, we can’t see that mark being bettered by a road car any time soon. God bless the queen.
Radical SR8 LM is fastest production car
Before the McLaren P1 was claiming to smash the seven minute barrier, the legendary Radical SR8 LM was doing it for real, and for all to see. It’s hardly the most practical of cars, but the fact British manufacturer Radical drove to the Nurburgring from England on the same Dunlop tyres it used to set this astonishing lap time reinforces what an incredible machine this is. It set the fastest lap time ever for a production car, an astonishing 6:48, within 24 hours of its journey from Blighty to the Nurburgring. bettering the lap time set by the standard SR8.
Porsche 918 Spyder nails the ‘ring in 6:57
Porsche has a bit of a home advantage when it comes to the Nurburgring so it’s hardly surprising it has a number of record lap times under its belt, including the astonishing 6:57 set by the 875bhp hybrid Porsche 918 supercar with race driver Marc Lieb at the helm. Not even the badass Carrera GT, which was the last car Paul Walker ever got to ride in before the fatal crash, comes close ─ 30 seconds separates the two.
Nissan GT-R Nismo is fastest 4×4 to lap
Nissan may lack the prestige of some of its competitors, but nobody disputes the performance pedigree, most of which was poured into the Nissan GT-R Nismo. With 12 minutes before the track was closed and before the heavens opened, the 600bhp GT-R posted a time of 7:08, making it the fastest 4WD production car around the circuit. Or at least it was until the Porsche 918 showed up and made it look silly.
Porsche 956 posts fastest official lap time ever
Stefan Bellof was pegged as a future Formula One champion, but his tragic death while racing at Spa-Francorchamps cut his career short. That didn’t stop him from setting the fastest lap time ever, though, at The Green Hell in its Nordschleife configuration. Bellof was pushing so hard he actually flipped his Porsche 956 Group C car a few laps after setting the record 6:11 lap time. Although maybe he was just showing off.
Niki Lauda sets Fastest F1 time
Before the Nurburgring was deemed too dangerous it was home to Formula One racing. During the 1975 German grand prix qualifying session Ferrari’s Niki Lauda posted an exceptional time of 6:58.6, making it the second fastest competition lap time ever behind the Porsche 956. Lauda’s average speed was a mind-bending 122.238mph.
Pagani Zonda R ‘cheats’ with special rubber
On the 29th June, 2010 Marc Basseng proved the Pagana Zonda R was more than capable of backing up its outlandish styling with outlandish performance. With the help of some bespoke Pirelli P-Zero tyres it was able to set a time of 6:47 ─ one second ahead of the rival Ferrari 599XX and the Radical SR8 LM. Such was Pagani founder Horacio Pagani’s drive to succeed, he had a second car brought in after the first suffered damage to the rear subframe.
Donkervoort D8 RS takes Porsche’s crown
Think hand-built cars and you probably imagine a fragile work of art that would crumble as soon as you look at it. But the Donkervoort D8 RS was no shrinking violet. It turned up at the ‘ring with the sole intent of stealing Porsche’s production car lap time crown, which it did after annihilating the Carrera GT’s time by 15 seconds in 2004. Driver Michael Duchting decided to have another crack at the whip in 2006, knocking it back to 7:14.89.
Trabant P50 sets slowest lap
In our pursuit for speed we sometimes to forget to enjoy the journey. In 1960 a Trabant P50 lapped the ‘ring so slowly the driver probably set off with with a full head of hair and finished bald. It posted a time of 16:01 (that’s minutes, not years) ─ enough for most cars to have gone round twice. By no means fast, then, but the engine yielded only 18 ponies and 4Nm of torque.
Yamaha YZF R1 bike record
If you think lapping the ‘ring is scary in a car, you should see what it looks like on a Yamaha YZF R1. Where cars have the benefit of downforce, protection from the elements and two extra wheels, rider Andy Carlile had to make do with a bit of cow hide and a helmet on his attempt on May 31st, 2012. His record of 7:10 shows cars can go faster but who cares when it looks this dangerous? Total nutter.
2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 shows American cars can handle
When a car that retails for US$62,000 betters the likes of McLaren, Porsche, Nissan and other heavyweights, it deserves a place on our list. That something is the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which posted a time of 7:29.6, making it faster than a McLaren 650S, Koenigsegg CCX, Shelby GT350 and the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Even better is the fact it did so with Camaro engineer and driver Drew Cattell letting the 10-speed automatic take care of all the gear changes. Who says big-old V8 bruisers are ineffective track weapons?