The Truth About Cars » Nordschleife The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 01:30:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Nordschleife Porsche 918 Does Nordschleife In 07:14 – Film At 9/28 Fri, 21 Sep 2012 10:27:57 +0000 Nordschleife-enthusiasts, head for your lists. Still a year away from its official launch, the Porsche 918 Spyder rounded the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 07:14 minutes. Not bad for a plug-in hybrid. The timing however, could have been a bit more high-tech.

According to Porsche, “the lap time of the Porsche 918 Spyder prototype is one of the best ever clocked for street-legal vehicles with standard production tires. The course was only available to the development team from Weissach for one lap, and it had to be started from a standstill. The plug-in hybrid super sports car with over 795 hp was equipped with production tires from development partner Michelin as well as the optional “Weissach” package, which integrates modifications that boost driving performance.”

These lines appear to be written with at least a sideway glance at Wikipedia, where the List of Nürburgring Nordschleife lap times is being kept. The list demands that OEM tires are being used, and that a video is submitted. At the time of this typing, the 918 had not been added.

We asked Porsche about the video, and one was promised for September. With the lap time of the Lexus LFA standing at 7:14:64, we also inquired about the exact time. Porsche spokesman Holger Eckhardt says the 7:14 was “timed by hand, therefore, we only publish an approximation, generously rounded up.” With such inexact and ungerman  readings, a place on the list might be a bit shaky – until the proper timing gear arrives.

Currently, the fastest street-legal production car around the Nordschleife is the Dodge Viper ACR  (some claim it wasn’t street legal) with 7:12:13, followed by the Lexus LFA. Unless, of course, you believe that a car that needs a 45 minute start up procedure involving a laptop plugged into the ECU, and that needs an engine rebuild every 30 hours is a production car. In that case, the Radical SR8 (which would not get a license plate in Germany) is the top car.

PS: Some blogs that use other blogs to blog claim that veteran race driver Walter Röhrl (65) was behind the wheel of the ring-rounding 918. Not true, says Holger Eckhardt, “it wasn’t Walter Röhrl, it was a test driver.” The man in the picture isn’t Walter Röhrl either. It is Dr. Frank Walliser, project chief of the 918, and a proud man.


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Nissan Brings The GT-R Back To The Ring, Pits Nerds Against Race Car Drivers Wed, 04 Apr 2012 15:11:02 +0000

Not to have another stab at the best “production, street-legal” Nordschleife lap time.  That’s not why they are trading the chilly Eifel for balmy Yokohama. Allegedly, Nissan does not want to work on the 7:24:22 lap time.

Instead, says GT-R program director Kazutaka Mizuno:

We want to try something new this year. Just as important as performance improvement is, we must be confident about the reliability and durability of the car. This is the reason we chose to enter the 24 Hours Nürburgring: to perform harsher endurance tests for future performance improvements.”

That’s not the really new part. The truly new part is that the GT-R won’t be piloted by professional Nismo racers, but exclusively by members of the GT-R engineering team. Let’s see how that works out.

Here is some intentional (or not) intrigue: The GT-R’s best Nordschleife time stands at 7:24:22. However, Mizuno-san says in the video:

“From the 2007 model’s lap time of 7 minutes 38 seconds, this car achieves one lap of the Nordschleife in around 7 minutes 20 seconds.”

Something better than 7:20 would bring the GT-R back into the game. I’m sure the new Viper will be back. Possibly, Lexus could want to celebrate the 500th and last LF-A  with something better than 7:14. And while everybody is at the Ring anyway …

Picture courtesy Nissan Picture courtesy Nissan Picture courtesy Nissan Picture courtesy Nissan Picture courtesy Nissan Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 8
Inside The Lexus LFA: Soon You Will Hear How It Changes The Lexus Brand, Chief Engineer Says Thu, 01 Dec 2011 21:34:58 +0000

Sometimes, there are perks in this business. Yesterday, I had the biggest perk so far: I saw a  $375,000 (base) supercar in the nude. And I could ask the man who built the LFA what he was thinking. He thinks the LFA could change Lexus as we know it.

Haruhiko Tanahashi is the Chief Engineer of the Lexus LFA, the storied supercar, population 500. A Chief Engineer at Toyota and hence at Lexus is much more than an engineer. He is the father of the car, he is responsible for the car from idea to realization and optimization.

A lot has already been written about the LFA. I wanted to know only one thing: Why?

Why build a car that is limited to 500 units, which are beyond the reach of a mere mortal? Will the LFA remain an exotic  island, or will its technology filter down into the whole Lexus line?

Yes it will, and it already does, says Tanahashi:

“Sure, there will be direct technology transfers to all Lexus lines. For instance  carbon, engine efficiency and more. But the most important cross pollination is not the car itself, it is the thought process behind the car. That thought process could change the philosophy of Lexus 180 degrees.”

Tanahashi gives just one example that is indicative of what may happen to the Lexus brand, should the ideas behind the LFA prove communicable:

“In the past, the engine sound has always been something we were trying to suppress. We were trying to remove all sounds from the car. I was told and I told my people: Sounds are bad, sounds are bad, sounds are bad. Especially the engine sound. We used to want that as quiet as possible.

What is different with the LFA is that you hear the music of the engine, and it has a beautiful sound. People want to hear that sound.

That is one example that you will be seeing – well, hearing – in other Lexus cars in the future.”

When Tanahashi and his team developed the LFA, they worked with Yamaha. Not only with Yamaha, the engine builders. They worked with the musical instrument builders at Yamaha. They turned the LFA into a musical instrument. Not a synthesizer that plays sampled engine sound. They turned the LFA into a veritable wind instrument.

Tanahashi’s Deputy Chief Engineer Chiharu Tamura demonstrates this for me on the most unusual LFA I had ever seen (not that I have seen many): A naked, disrobed LFA. They removed the outer skin of the car so that all that is inside can be seen and touched.

In the LFA, the air rushes into an opening on the engine side of the firewall. The air enters an echo chamber in the dash, and sound is emitted though small openings in the dashboard.

In addition, there is a membrane behind the engine computer that creates sound as the air rushes across the rear of the car.

Of course there was another question that needed to be asked, and that is the question of the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time. Currently, the LFA lap time stands at 7 minutes, 14:64 seconds, which is “very fast” as Tanahashi states, and do I honestly want more?

Then the Chief Engineer kicks in, and Tanahashi feeds me the company line that nobody wants to set a record on the Nordschleife. Driving there is done solely in the name of science and testing, to optimize the ride, to make it handle well, and the 7 minutes, 14:64 seconds are simply a result of this test.

There must be a secret cue card which is used by all manufacturers, because they all say the same: “Record? Us? On the Nürburgring? What record?”

I roll my eyes so fast that I become dizzy.

Then slowly, a smile unfolds in Tanahashi’s face, he leans forward, lowers his voice, and says:

“My test driver Akira Iida says that from his point of view,  we can reach 7:12. He thinks it’s possible. Of course, that is strictly his own private opinion.”

Of course it is.


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Nissan Distances Itself From Rogue GT-R Ring Racer Video Mon, 14 Nov 2011 10:28:34 +0000

Yesterday, the new 2012 Nissan GT-R landed on rank 10 of the fastest Nordschleife lap times. The only problem is: Nissan knows absolutely nothing about this record run. As far as Nissan is concerned, it doesn’t exist, and there is nothing to say.

The entry appeared in the all-knowing crowd sourced Wikipedia, along with a pointer to a video on YouTube (above). The video looks very professionally made. The Japanese intro is, as TTAC’s consultant in cross-cultural matters, Frau Schmitto-san, assures me, a little heavy on advertising speak and a little short on information. It basically says that the GT-R ran around the Ring on a set of Dunlop Zero Pressure runflats. The video shows a credible GT-R cockpit, and the timer dutifully stops at 7:21, then the video fades to black. Slightly suspicious: The lack of fractional seconds, which often become the deciding factor in the race against the clock.

If that video is to be believed, then the new GT-R shaved off a few seconds from the 7:24.22 achieved in October 2010, but remained shy of its self-declared goal of “less than 7 minutes 20 seconds.” Not to mention that the unofficial record stands at 6:48.

A check of the Nissan press releases found no official statement. On Sunday, I called my media contact at Nissan, who sounded honestly astounded: “Never heard of it. And I should. I will look into it.” On Monday, Nissan spokesman Nobukazu Tanaka assured me that yes, in October there had been GT-R test runs on the  Nürburgring, “as part of the many tests for the final trial of the  2012 model year GT-R.”

But no, there was no record attempt.

“In other words, we have no official announcement of a time trial or the results of the test run at the Nürburgring Nordschleife,” Tanaka said. He implied that at least some of the footage in the video is legit: “Video scenes which had been taken on the circuit had been broadcasted through CGM.”  In the trade, CGM is used as an acronym for consumer generated media. Whether this video has eloped the Nissan studios in Yokohama, or whether someone with a copy of Adobe Premiere had made it, we’ll never know.

This adds another twist to the many turns of the Nordschleife lap time saga. Manufacturers spend lots of money and countless man days running cars around the Ring, but there are no independent time takers. Professional race drivers risk life and limb, but officially, there is no race. If a manufacturer makes a statement, then it’s usually just the time, and rarely the rank. The score is kept on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The term “production, street legal vehicle” remains undefined, and when I ask manufacturers for a definition, they shrug their shoulders.

Because there are no rules for a race that officially does not exist, the race can easily be gamed. For years, the non-existent podium of the non-existent race has been monopolized by faux “production, street legal vehicles.” According to its owner’s manual, the Radical SR8, which occupies the two top spots of the list, needs to be started “with a laptop connected to the ECU so that all engine parameters can be monitored during warm-up.” The recommended warm-up time for the top-ranking alleged “production, street legal vehicle” is 45 minutes. No idle-stop here.  It needs its engine rebuilt after 30 hours, the drive shafts need to be replaced after 20 hours, and the brake discs must be inspected/replaced after 10 hours. Some production vehicle.


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Nordschleife Mystery: Viper Or Blindworm? Mon, 19 Sep 2011 13:38:45 +0000

Last week, news about a Dodge Viper ACR kicking “the ever-living crap out of the Lexus LFA and the Corvette ZR1” (in the matchless and breathless words of Jalopnik) made the rounds trough the webz. At the time, Jack Baruth warned that “there’s no ‘official’ word yet” and mused that the slick boys could have used non-stock tires. Ever since, it became quiet.

A contact who works in one of those top secret garages behind bucolic Eifel farmhouses confirmed that there was a lot of activity last week. He saw ACRs and Corvettes arrive. He saw Tom Coronel come and go. He voiced his doubts whether the ACR was street legal, and called it a “racing version.” If and when the record is confirmed (currently, even Viperclub, where the story originated, does not have anything official – the video above is an old one, got you), the question of street legality will play a big role.

Will the car go in the “production vehicle” column and kick the aforementioned ever-living bowel movement out of the LFA?

Or will remain in the “Non-series/road-legal vehicles” list (where it currently sits until a nitpicking Wikipedian demands “citation please”)?

In the former case, America will have subjugated Japan, again.  In the latter case, the Viper will have beaten a hopped-up BMW E46 CSL of dubious road-worthiness, and a Porsche 911 “non-production prototype.”

My wrenching friend in the Eifel told me that there is a lot of activity in those garages behind the farmhouses, and that there are many taunts in the local Gasthaus.

Stay, well, tuned.

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LFA’s Ring Result Confirmed: 7:14.64 (Video Proof Encl.) Wed, 07 Sep 2011 04:25:57 +0000

After checking the telemetry, and posing for a group shot, it’s official: The Lexus Nürburgring-enhanced LFA did the now common 20.6 kilometer “sport auto” lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife in seven minutes, 14.64 seconds. That’s a hair better than the Donkervoort D8 RS, which completed the same course in 7:14.89 – 5 years ago. It is also the best time amongst the bona-fide production models. Better than the Nissan GT-R (7 min 24 sec), better than the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (7 minutes 19 sec), better than the Porsche 911 GT2 RS (7 minutes 18 seconds).

Still, it doesn’t take the Lexus all the way to the top of the production league. In front of it are three more “production” cars. Two Radicals (6:48 and 6:55) and one Gumpert Apollo that had rounded the Ring in 7:11.57. All not necessarily mass market cars, but the LFA isn’t either:

Of the plain vanilla LFA, only 500 are built. The record breaking LFA with the Nürburgring package is produced 50 times. However, it is street legal, even under strict German rules. The red “Überführungsnummer”  (dealer or temporary tag) from Cologne (denoted by the “K” in front) attests to that.

Be it as it may, it is a great win, and it will most likely lead to increased tinkering, especially in Zuffenhausen. Being passed by a car nobody ever heard of is one thing. But by a Lexus?

“Ja, was bilden die sich denn ein, die Japaner!”

PS: Bloggers, please don’t try to impress your readers with “bridge to gantry.” As the authority on the topic,, explains:

“After exiting the carpark at ‘C’ on the map above, drive under the Bridge (Antoniusbuche) at ‘B’. From here it’s 19.1km to the Gantry.”

Bridge to gantry is for tourist days. The full lap is 20.6 kilometers. And here is the video of the full 20.6 kilometers.

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Great Nordschleifen Time In A LFA. A Bad Day For The Blogs Sat, 03 Sep 2011 16:15:30 +0000 While Jack is ranting about blackballing PR flacks and journos with pants on fire, let me warn against journalism by Twitter. Here is a prime example: Today, the interwebs are abuzz about a Lexus LFA setting a new Nordschleifen record. The source: A tweet by Chris Harris of EVO. He wrote: “LFA Nurburgring pack just did 7.14 lap of the Ring. That’s mighty fast.” And he followed it by a “Akira Iida was the man who did the LFA’s 7.14. Great time.”  That may be the case. What is shameful is what was made of this tweet.

From Torque News (“Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition shatters production car ‘Ring record”) through GMInsideNews (“Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package Smashes Nordschliefe Production Record with 7:14 Lap”) to Jalopnik (“LFA Nürburgring Edition sets a ring record”), the blogs are blabbering that Lexus sent the standing Nordschleifen-time to the Green Hell. And nobody bothered to check. Which is what anyone should do who calls himself a journalist.

I called Keisuke Kirimoto, Toyota’s genial spokesman in Tokyo this morning. He had not heard about the stunt yet. But he had his lap times in his head: “7:14? Doesn’t the record stand at 6 and change?” He’s right: A look at Wikipedia shows that the Nordschleifen-record for production cars stands at  6 minutes and 48, and it stood there since Michael Vergers drove his street-legal Radical SR8M around the Nordschleife in 6 minutes and 48 seconds in 2009. Wikipedia even lists Akira Iida’s new 7:14 – in number 4.  Well, if the journos are that lazy, no wonder they get treated in a way that upsets Baruth the Brute.

Jack: They deserve it.

Some of them corrected the copy in the meantime. Jalopnik added: “Akira Iida posted a 7:14 lap time of the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition – good enough for either the fourth or fifth all-time fastest lap.” But they didn’t change the headline, and that’s what most Jalopnik readers usually manage to read. Or that’s what Jalopnik hopes they click on.

Kirimoto promised to come back with an official confirmation by tomorrow. Good for him, he doesn’t want to rely on Twitter. Even after his boss, Akiro Toyoda, twittered via the Team Gazoo account: “レクサス LFA、ニュルで7分14秒台を記録か” which according to Frau Schmitto-san stands for “Lexus LFA, 7 minutes, 14 seconds recorded on the Nürburgring.”

Team Gazoo warns on its website that the timing is not official yet, but if it is, then it would beat the times of the Nissan GT-R  (7 min 24 sec), of the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (7 minutes 19 sec) and that of the Porsche 911 GT2 RS (7 minutes 18 seconds), “which would be a great honor.”

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Toyota Sets Nordschleife Record Running On Batteries Thu, 01 Sep 2011 15:41:51 +0000

Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), Toyota’s Cologne-based high-speed division, has set a new Nordschleife record for an electric vehicle. The TMG EV P001, equipped with two electric motors and 800Nm of torque, did the Nordschleife in 7 mins 47.794 secs, outdistancing the Peugeot EX1 EV’s which did the circuit in 9 mins 1.338 secs.

The Peugeot was as fast as a Volkswagen Lupo GTI.  Toyota’s battery-operated racer is breathing down the necks of current Schleifen-champs. According to the fountain of wisdom, the record for a production vehicle stands at 6 minutes 48 seconds for a Radical SR8 LM (production car, sure). In the non road-legal department, the Pagani Zonda leads with 6:47.50. The Radical did the 20,600 m course, the Pagani and the Toyota did the full 20,800 meters. The TMG EV P001 could even be a cousin of the Radical. In its 2010 annual report, TMG said that it had built an electric race car based on the Radical. That one had a top speed of 230 km/h, the TMG EV P001 goes 260 km/h.

Old racer’s adage: It doesn’t matter how fast you go, what matters is how fast you get around the circuit. Acceleration is more important than flat-out top speed on that circuit. Torque is where an EV excels. And with a little tweaking, an electric car can leave the gasoline-powered ones in a cloud of – nothing.

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