Is Tesla’s new Nordschleife “lap record” legitimate?

It was just after midnight in Germany when Tesla’s twitter-happy CEO Elon Musk fired off his latest Nuerburgring-related Twitter salvo. He claimed that the Model S Plaid, in “completely standard” form “direct from the factory” had just done the fastest ever lap of the Nordschleife, at a modestly impressive 7m35s.

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EDIT: The Musk-anator posted TWO laptimes, but what he meant to say was that the laptime was a 7m30s on the old T13 short layout, and 7m35s FULL laptime. From now on, let’s talk FULL laptimes please! Thanks to the driver Andreas Simonsen for clearing that up!

First of all, YES. It’s a legitimate claim and Tesla Inc did hire the whole Nordschleife for a notarised, official laptime attempt. We can expect a press release from the Nuerburgring to follow later today.

Secondly, there’s still plenty of intrigue for the Tesla lovers and Tesla haters (I count myself as neither, just a tech-hungry car-nut). But first, the main course:

Yes, that’s the onboard of the 7m35s lap. To prevent you from trawling through a 1000-word missive, I will keep my observations short.

  • SPECULATION 1: Probably the ‘official’ 7m30s onboard video will be released later today by the ‘Ring management.
  • SPECULATION 2: The 7m30s laptime might have been achieved by using a normal wheel. Look how difficult it is to handle that thing! A proper F1/GT3 yoke allows the driver to steer from quarter-to-three, not twenty-to-four. The driver is constantly working to grip something that’s not there.
  • FACT 1: The Porsche Taycan laptime of 7m42s was never an official lap record for EVs, as it was done ‘under the radar’, not on a private track booking and not notarised. Chapeau to Tesla for doing it ‘correctly’…
  • FACT 2: The stripped-out, tuned-up, test mules were much faster than this. I recorded one doing 7m23s myself.
  • OBSERVATION 1: While the acceleration of the Plaid is FIERCE, there are some LONG coasting sections before braking zones where the driver is either choosing not to accelerate, or is not allowed to… leading me to:
  • SPECULATION 3: If I want to conserve the brakes, keep the engine cool, or just generally be kinder to my car, I will also come off the ‘gas’ way before the braking zone. In race mode, you’re normally either braking or accelerating. I speculate that the driver was pushing up against a limitation of the car. Watch the coasting sections before Quiddelbacher Hohe (Flugplatz, for the heathens) and Schwedenkreuz, to see what I mean.
  • OBSERVATION 2: That Twitter post from the official Tesla account about a 7m05s laptime didn’t age well. Looking at this lap, there are some big issues to solve.
  • OBSERVATION 3: 7m35s on a Nordschleife that is unarguably faster than ever before isn’t particularly amazing for a 1000-hp car. It’s just ahead of the 2.0-litre hatchbacks and 2-ton SUVs, but significantly behind the 600hp 4-door saloons and a country-mile behind the ‘proper’ sportscars.
  • FACT 4: I don’t have to eat one of my own T-Shirts, as the production Plaid is clearly not a sub-7 car.
  • SPECULATION 4: Musk has left the door open to the tuners to do better. He mentions on twitter the possibility of more aero, stickier tyres, etc… then he talks about ‘third-parties’. Could this be an opportunity for Unplugged Performance? Their Model-S Plaid recently did a great job at Pikes Peak and Laguna, for example.
    Unplugged Plaid at Laguna 

I will add the official release below, as soon as it’s available!

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