RANT: Stop bullsh***ing us with your Nürburgring Laptimes

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Sit down, get a cup of tea (or coffee, if you’re a heathen) and get ready. Because I need to get something off my chest.

Today’s rant has been precipitated by the arrival of a new video by Porsche, pushing their new luxury sedan, the Panamera. For the sake of completeness, I’ve included it below:

So why am I upset? This can all be summed up with a hashtag I’ve been using for many years…

#ShowMeTheVideoOrGTFO

A crappy montage of a test mule with stickers-for-headlights is NOT a lap video. You want a proper laptime video? The gold-standard has to be the Lamborghini Aventador SV going sub-7.

Porsche should be ashamed of that Panamera video, they know how this works. They did the first sub-7 production car lap with their 918, remember?

But ever since the world’s media lapped up the tale of the 7m39s Alfa Romeo Giulia, it seems like the manufacturers can claim any old laptime they want. The current crop of car magazines, websites and bloggers are happy to swallow these claims whole. Then regurgitate them on their own pages, thus lending credibility to something that came out of a PR department. Hell Alfa didn’t even post a montage video.

Many, or even most, manufacturers have been guilty of this at some point. The problem is simple:

A Nürburgring laptime is too easy to fake
(and too important to ignore)

Because the manufacturers test in the journalist-free zone that is industry pool, un-bias witnesses to each attempt are nearly always absent. Porsche may well have done a 7m38s lap with the Panamera, but they can’t show any video from industy pool. Why not? Because it’s a top-secret, cross-brand, industrial testing ground, obviously. If you want to shoot a fast onboard lap in perfect conditions you’ve got to rent the whole track (and pay for the video license too).

And even then, we’re brushing over the difference between a ‘pre-production’ prototype and a car you can buy in the dealer. For example, that Panamera above has stickers instead of headlights. I’ve seen other ‘pre-production’ cars with no interiors, plastic windows and even glass-fibre body panels.

That’s why I enjoy the SportAuto superlap. Sure, I’ve seen some dodgy press cars in my time, with spicy engine tunes and aggressive brake pads, but it’s better than nothing.

So what’s the solution?

We live in an imperfect world, while social media, youtube comments and this very blog all demand perfection. So how would BTG do it?

Option 1 > The Nürburgring Testing Agency

Of course, you could create an agency to provide authentic laptimes of every new model. Buy the cars, pay the Nürburgring a fee for tracktime, pay a team to check and prep the car, pay a pro-driver to drive, pay a film crew to film and edit each lap. Perfect, right?

But in the world of free internet videos, the viewers wouldn’t want to pay for it. So you’d have to charge the manufacturer money to test their car. And why the hell would they pay an agency more for a ‘slower’ laptime? This stuff’s so important to the pre-sale hype, that there’s no way they’d allow it out of their control, let alone pay for it. The old ‘Which?’ magazine model of payment just wouldn’t work, sorry.

Option 2 > The Nürburgring Test Standard

This one’s a whole lot more realistic to achieve, but it’s still not likely. Create a ‘standard’ for any Nürburgring lap record. If somebody asked me (BTG) to ‘authenticate’ their lap, this is what I’d do:

  • Check the exact positions of the start/finish lines
  • Visually inspect the tyres and check their numbers.
  • Datalog the GPS positions and speeds, including a single acceleration/deceleration as a control.
  • Weigh the car, dyno the car
  • Inspect and note any significant modifications for performance (eg cages, seats, harnesses)

But again, this would probably be way too much ‘access’ for anybody not belonging to the company.

Now, if Nürburgring themselves were to do this, they could control the ‘license’ to publish a Nürburgring laptime, make this standard inspection mandatory, and charge a few Euros for it at the same time… #JustSaying #MyDoorIsAlwaysOpen

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