The Nürburgring Just Banned Lap Records

by | Mar 1, 2019 | Articles

This week, the management group overseeing Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife moved to ban manufacturers from attempting and publishing timed laps on the famed, 13-mile course. For car enthusiasts who judge modern sports cars by how quickly they can round the circuit, it’s an unthinkable, if not wholly unexpected, turn of events.

For Christian Von Koenigsegg, it’s even more disappointing; the news comes just days before he was to spend a week at the circuit with the new Koenigsegg One:1 hypercar in hopes of setting a lap record. It’s part of Koenigsegg’s three-year plan to establish the One:1 as the fastest production car in the world.

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It was early Tuesday morning when I received an urgent phone call from Christian. In two days, I was to jump on a plane with my team to capture the Koenigsegg lap-time effort for our upcoming 4K documentary, APEX, which we’re producing in conjunction with Sony. This is the final chapter in a storyline that follows the past three years of auto manufacturers battling it out for technological dominance in producing halo cars for the next decade, cars including the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari. All have shown what they’re worth on the track, but the Koenigsegg One:1 has yet to do so.

Now we have a new story to tell: The Nürburgring benchmark of sports-car superiority has come to a screeching halt, and the Koenigsegg One:1’s place on the leaderboard is in jeopardy. We’d been on stand-by to fly across the Atlantic (on moments’ notice) to capture Koenigsegg’s attempt. This time, helicopter crews were ready to go, logistics were sorted, and travel was booked. The sudden notification from Nürburgring management couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment for everyone.

The decision to ban timed laps stems from an accident earlier this year at a VLN race, involving driver Jann Mardenborough, in which a spectator was killed. Track management reacted by imposing a speed limit at Flugplatz, where the crash occurred. Since then, management has imposed further restrictions in other high-speed sectors. This is a particularly disappointing development for Koenigsegg, since the One:1’s flat-out speed in those sectors would likely have given it a lap-time advantage. In Tiergarten, for instance, a long, fast section where Christian estimates the One:1 could easily hit 300 kph, speed is now restricted to just 200 kph.

Official word from Nurburgring management is that these restrictions will be reviewed at the end of the year, but for the time being, manufacturers like Koenigsegg are banned from attempting lap-time runs — even if they’ve rented out the entire track for themselves. The Koenigsegg team and the One:1 are now stuck in a holding pattern. They have a car that’s ready to attack the northern loop. Their simulations and data suggest they’ve got a good chance to best their competitors. Even Koenigsegg’s past track data suggests their best segment times, when stitched together, would undercut the Porsche 918’s official 6:57 time by double-digit seconds.

But there’s a twist to the story. After the initial restrictions were in place, Lamborghini ran its new Aventador SV and published a sub-seven-minute lap time. Nürburgring management claims Lamborghini’s attempt happened one day before they issued the latest round of restrictions. Yet at the same time, WTCC laps have been allowed to ignore all speed limits all together? What’s the deal? We’re investigating.

So what’s next for Koenigsegg and our film, APEX? The helicopter crews are ready, the One:1 is ready, but we don’t have anywhere to run the car.

Is there a new benchmark to be set? Should nearby Spa Francorchamps, another long, high-speed track with motorsports provenance, become the new venue for lap time tests? Maybe a stateside circuit like the four-mile West Grand course at VIR would fit the bill? What about setting an endurance record? Let the Reddit car forums march with their keyboards and pitchforks.

Special Thanks to Robb Holland and Mike Spinelli for details and help writing this article.