…and sets a new Nürburgring record! Barely a couple of days after Toyota’s breaking the electric vehicle lap record by over a minute came word that the carmaker’s non plus ultra Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package set a record of its own on its namesake circuit’s Nordschleife configuration.
The news broke, in very 21st-century fashion, via a post on Chris Harris of evo magazine’s Twitter feed on Friday 2 September, later retweeted (and, thus, tacitly confirmed) by Lexus Europe Public Relations. This was swiftly picked up by The Lexus Enthusiast, where comments by Maarten and 05RollaXRS led us back to a thread on the Club Lexus LFA forum informing us of a 31 August and 1 September 2011 LFA Nürburgring Edition experience in Nordschleife event for a few current and future LFA customers from around the world. Club Lexus member (and LFA owner) Gengar described it as “a track acclimation program on the Nordschleife in the Nürburgring Edition, a hot lap with a professional driver, and a brief public road test. Additionally, on the first night of the program, owners will be invited to attend a product and technical exhibition on the Nürburgring Edition as well as…dinner with Lexus LFA staff” (including, it turned out, LFA Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi). It was amidst these demonstrations that, in an almost impromptu fashion, the new record was set.
Well…maybe not. As an official European Lexus Media Site news release informs us, on Wednesday 31 August 2011, Lexus undertook a performance check (love the understatement) with the Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package at the Nürburgring Nordschliefe (North Loop) in Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany and recorded a lap time of just 7 minutes 14.64 seconds. The tires used during the performance evaluation were Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tires which are the standard road legal specification for this LFA. As Bertel Schmitt of The Truth About Cars reminds us, the LFA ran the full 20.6 kilometer “sport auto” lap common for manufacturer record runs, and not the shorter, tourist-oriented 19.1 kilometer “Bridge to Gantry” lap. Speaking of which, Bridge to Gantry.com adds that the iPool laptime method (from the end of the T13 straight to the start of it) is pretty much the industry standard as it’s a simpler solution for the guys who are using T13 pitlane on the industry pool days.
Lexus LFA Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi noted that
Since 2004 in the spring and summer of every year we have conducted development tests for the LFA at Nürburgring Nordschleife. The LFA Nürburgring package is the compilation of our extensive testing programme and we have appreciated the opportunities to utilise the Nürburgring Nordschleife to strengthen and develop the LFA into the vehicle it is today. The development team’s obsession, (test driver) Iida-san’s concentration and good course conditions all led to achieving this record
A major requisite in the YouTube era, of course, is the obligatory video, and Lexus certainly did not disappoint:
Behind the wheel of the LFA for the record-making run is 42-year-old Akira Iida, a Japanese race car driver who entered Super GT racing in 1994, just after the series got its start. After two years running the #10 Nissan Skyline for the Johnson team in the GT-1 class, the rules overhaul that led to the formation of GT300 and GT500 classes (named for their horsepower limits) coincided with Iida’s move to the latter class and the Raybrig team’s #100 Honda NSX, in which he competed until the end of the 2001 season. He really hit his stride, however, with his 2002 move to the ESSO Ultraflow team’s #6 Toyota Supra, becoming the series champion in his maiden season with the team. In 2003, he moved to the team’s #1 Supra, and finished second overall for the season. The following year, he returned to the #6 Supra, finishing third overall. After completing four seasons with the ESSO Ultrafow Supras in 2005, the team, now rechristened Mobil 1, changed over to the Lexus SC 430 for Iida’s final GT500 season in 2006.
This hardly meant the end of Iida-san’s racing career, however. Earlier having dabbled in Formula Nippon (Japan’s take on Formula 2 and Formula 3000 racing) and, most crucially, endurance racing (including a victory in the GT2 class co-driving a Honda NSX in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans), he then joined Toyota’s elite team of test drivers that competed in the Lexus LFA in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring. In fact Iida-san became the team’s lead driver, as he co-drove the Japanese V10 supercar all four years (2008 thru 2011) in which it has raced in the German round-the-clock event.
So, which cars remain faster than the Lexus LFA ’round the ‘ring? Dale of the ever-informative Nürburgring fan site Bridge to Gantry started, back in March, a frequently-updated Fastest Production Car Lap of the Nurburgring chart. Beyond simply posting numbers, Dale informs us whether or not video exists and, more importantly, whether or not the vehicles truly meet production criteria. The current record-holder, the Pagani Zonda-R with a time of 6 minutes 47.5 seconds, gets a no because “it’s seriously awesome, but it’s not a road car. Crap, it’s not even legal for GT racing!” Next is the Radical SR8LM (the basis for the electric Toyota TMG EV P001 we recently wrote about). Powered by a 2800 cc RPE RPA V8, it lapped the ‘ring in 6 minutes 48 seconds. Dale gives it a maybe in validity, as it’s “road-legal in Britain and a LOT of other countries, but not everywhere – notably the USA”. The third and final car to tuck in under the 7 minute mark is the Ferrari 599XX. This is a track-only, non-street legal version of the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano that was soundly beaten by the Lexus LFA in an evo magazine comparison test. Besides the lack of street legality, the 599XX also ranks as a no because Ferrari “cheated” and ran it on racing slicks, as opposed to street-legal tires. The fourth and final car to lap the Nürburgring faster than the LFA is the Gumpert Apollo, with a time of 7 minutes 11.5 seconds. This Audi-engined, built-to-order supercar ranks a maybe, since it’s “not strictly type-approved…but it is road-legal in Germany.” Porsche 911 GT2 RS? Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 or ZO6? Nissan GT-R? Maserati MC12? Pagani Zonda F? Ferrari Enzo? Porsche Carrera GT? Fuhggedaboutit! The Lexus LFA trounced them all!