Opinion: why this car's new Nürburgring lap record is 'total bullsh*t'
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Taking your latest and greatest vehicular masterpiece to Germany's Nürburgring Nordscheife to attack record lap-times (and drive a stake into the hearts of your rivals) is nothing new.
'Green Hell' has always been a bit of an icon in the racing and motoring world as one of the largest and most treacherous man-made ribbons of race-track on the planet. But the act of factory organisations taking new performance cars to the 'Ring and setting a time for marketing purposes really only kicked into gear in the early noughties.
It was a development spurred on somewhat by the car enthusiast-focused magazines and websites that built their success on big, beefy headlines about numbers. Power, torque, and a competitive — if not record braking — Nürburgring lap-time became enough to build an overnight cult of followers for any given sports car or hot hatch (or, these days, even SUVs).
There are multiple lines of arguments of dissent that have spun off the Nürburgring's growth in popularity. The Grand Tour's James May regularly argues that it's the ruination of almost all modern performance cars, for example.
But, it's not too much of a stretch to go a step further and say that the weekend's events teeter on the edge of 'fake news' territory.
Over the weekend, up-and-coming Chinese car company Lynk & Co claimed that they had reset the Nürburgring's lap records for four-door cars and for front-wheel drive cars. They did this with their new '03' sedan — a winged little beast featuring a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with a claimed 393kW of power and 504Nm of torque.
That power, combined with a six-speed sequential gearbox, helps hurl the 03 to 100km/h in a claimed 4.4 seconds, 200km/h in 10 seconds, and to a top speed of 310km/h. The lap itself makes for captivating viewing. Driver Thed Björk threads numerous needles and slams plenty of kerbs, on his way to recording a 7min 20.1sec lap-time.
Lynk & Co says that that's three seconds quicker than the former four-door record held by the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, and while also being a ballistic 25-odd seconds quicker than the former front-wheel drive record set recently by the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R.
It's incredibly quick, incredibly impressive, and ... also total bullsh*t.
Lynk & Co labelled the effort as the being the first time a Chinese manufacturer has claimed a record on the Nürburgring with a mass production-based car. But there's a lot to unpack there with that word; production.
Anyone who's read this far into the story will know that it's not possible to walk into a showroom tomorrow and just buy a Lynk & Co 03. You could argue that the same line applies to the aforementioned Jaguar and Renault of course, but the point is that both of those cars are genuine, made-in-numbers production cars. Both are even coming to New Zealand.
The Lynk & Co? Well, it's not even a production car yet. It's a concept.
What's more, it's a concept that will likely need a few changes here and there to actually become road legal. It's built by the same group — Cyan Racing — that make the Lynk & Co TCR touring car. From where couch-racers like me are sitting, the 03 Concept looks to just be the TCR race car fitted with a set of "road legal tyres" and a friendlier cabin.
If this thing goes into production — proper, production — with no changes, I'll proudly eat my hat. And a side of humble pie.
But, it's not just couch racers like me who are questioning the record. Actual race driver Robb Holland, a former British Touring Car Championship regular and former TCR driver himself, was among those to call out the legitimacy of the lap on Jalopnik.
"Calling massive BS on this one. It’s not currently available to the public and even when it is it will only be available to VIPs. Seriously?," he said.
"I mean it’s got a sequential transmission for f**ks sake. This looks to be basically their TCR car with 'road legal' tires. Lynk & Co have a history of pulling this crap. In fact their TCR car is the only TCR car competing in WTCR that isn’t available for sale to customers. [...] I’m sorry but it’s BS stunts like this that give Ring records a bad name and make it impossible to tell who is playing by the rules and in fact WTF the rules even are."
He's right on that VIP front, too. A very limited run of 'production' 03 Concepts have been made available to a selection of VIPs in Sweden. Is that really enough to make it a 'production' car? What's stopping any other brand from taking one of their TCR race-cars, bolting on street-legal rubber, setting a 'Ring record, and claiming that they'll sell a handful to VIPs (read; a few mates) in order for it to be considered a 'production car'?
Who makes the rules here?
The whole thing is silly, and makes a mockery of what's already considered to be a bit of a joke in the first place.
A significant chunk of that aforementioned Renault lap record can be attributed to the use of a new, very advanced Bridgestone Potenza S007 tyre (an OEM tyre for the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta). The Jaguar Project 8, meanwhile, was deployed in its 'Track Pack' configuration for the lap, with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres bolted on (yup, a tyre that isn't standard to the car. Project 8s get a non-R Cup 2 as standard).
Even the Honda Civic Type R FK8 that held the record before the Renault was criticised for doing the lap with a 'floating' roll cage fitted. Nürburgring hi-jinks is just what we expect these days, but at least the Renault, Honda, and Jaguar are real cars.
Look, I quite like Lynk & Co. Their partnership with Volvo seems to have been a smart one for all involved, their designs are sharp and look like nothing else out there, and they bring a lot of innovative ideas to the table in the ride-sharing space.
But the motoring world needs to stop manufacturers from claiming lap records that border on total farce.