Anyone who follows the sport of racing, loves the history of race-cars or can’t get enough of the Gran Turismo or Forza series on their Playstation and Xbox consoles knows that certain tracks stand above others in terms of history and greatness. From Silverstone in England to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to Suzuka Circuit in Japan, some tracks just stand out among the rest. Indeed, even among the elite tracks there is one which continually takes top spot even though it finds itself used more today as a test track and tourist attraction. The Nurburgring-Nordschleife has been surpassed by the Nurburgring GP track in terms of major racing events like Formula 1 – yet it remains the benchmark and the Holy Grail for the automotive world.
Built in the 1920s, the original Nordschleife was a nearly 23 km long track with considerable twists, turns and elevation changes throughout. Already a challenge to drive on, the continually increasing speed of vehicles, such as the Formula 1 cars, made the ring more dangerous with every passing year to the point legendary racer Jackie Stewart famously labelled the track “The Green Hell” in 1968. Stewart wasn’t being overly dramatic as he confessed that every time he left to race in the German GP he was never fully sure he would survive the ordeal. The concerns of drivers led to a major track renovation in the early 1970s with bumps and curves removed and Armco barriers installed. From the late 1970s to the early 1980s, the size of the track, the increasing dangers of driving it and the costs associated with running events there all meant the old Nurburgring was gradually decommissioned as a top-tier race venue.
Despite the fact major racing events no longer used the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, the track remained the benchmark for racers and automakers who looked to take on “The Green Hell” and tame it. Companies began to unofficially compete with one another in order to break each other’s lap times. Track times became badges of honor and something to brag about when a company advertised a specific model of car. Of course, this may all be at an end now thanks to the recent crash and fatality a few months ago when a Nissan GTR hit a bump, became airborne and went into the crowd. In response, the ring’s owner put speed limits on various parts of the track and has banned record breaking attempts.
The following looks at 15 of the fastest cars to ever go around the Nurburgring. We were originally going to look only at production vehicle lap times but everyone in the world has covered that so we thought we’d mix it up. Ahead you’ll find a blend of street-legal and production cars, as well as prototype and race vehicles. To make it more interesting and fuel debate we also considered times from various periods which saw the track change in length. These track lengths are posted beside every car, ranging from the classic 22.8 km version to the tamer, more modern and standardized 20.6 km of today.
Radical SR8LM – 6:48:00 (20,600 m)
Not done with the amazing SR8, Radical went on to produce the even higher performance SR8LM. Michael Vergers, the driver who took the SR8 around the Nurburgring in 6:55:00 in 2005, piloted the LM version to an even faster 6:48:00 lap in 2009. How did they do it? Radical basically took the SR8 body and stuffed a larger motor into it. Now driving the lightweight car was a 2.8L V8 which put out around 455 hp and enabled the car to shave seven seconds off the previous time. Again, Porsche argued that the car wasn’t a real road legal car because it wasn’t road legal everywhere. McLaren even jumped into the debate arguing their new P1 was faster – although nobody has seen an official time for that car yet.