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Tesla Model S Nurburgring record: What we know so far

Tesla has created plenty of attention with its Nurburgring record attempt - but no official lap time.

There was excitement for Tesla fans this week with reports that the American electric car maker may have beaten Porsche’s new EV Nurburgring record - but a closer examination reveals things are far from settled between the two brands.

Tesla has set its sights on claiming a record at Germany’s Nurburgring, the unofficial benchmark for performance cars. It seems to be in direct response to the launch of the new Porsche Taycan, the German brand’s all-electric sports sedan that competes directly with the Model S.

The company has spent the past week lapping the 20km track with a pair of Model S (one red and one blue) with a variety of drivers. But reports that the American machine has smashed the Taycan’s 7m42sec record by almost 20-seconds are premature, at best, with no official timing or evidence released by Tesla itself, as well as some serious question marks over the cars the company is using. 

Not your standard Model S

It’s important to note that the Porsche Taycan used was a pre-production model, but it’s believed it featured the same powertrain and interior (aside from a racing seat and harness) as the road-going Taycan Turbo.

In contrast. the Model S lapping the ‘Ring this week is believed to feature Tesla’s new Plaid powertrain, a more powerful, three-motor set-up that won’t be on sale for another year. It’s also been reported that while Tesla boss Elon Musk has claimed the red Model S features seven-seats, the blue car that set an unofficial 7m20sec lap time was stripped of its interior - featuring just a single racing-style seat for the driver.

It’s also been documented that both Model S in Germany feature several performance modifications, including wider wheel arches to accommodate bigger, sticker Goodyear tyres, carbon ceramic brakes and aerodynamic and cooling bodywork changes.

It’s unclear if Tesla will eventually offer these upgrades on a production model, and if they don’t they cannot claim to have beaten the production-ready Taycan in a straight fight.

Who’s driving

Musk is a master of generating publicity for his company via his Twitter feed, but he got some bonus help when he first announced his Nurburgring plan. Former Formula One champion Nico Rosberg tweeted back at Musk that he’d be happy to drive the Model S for the record attempt.

However, as widely expected, Tesla has instead opted for more experienced Nurburgring drivers that know the 20km, 186-turn circuit in precise detail. German GT driver Thomas Mutsch is believed to be the man handling the majority of the driving duties. He may not be as famous as Rosberg but he is a veteran racer at the Nurburgring 24-hours so his track experience will no doubt aid Tesla’s record attempt.

Record attempt timing

Several media outlets around the world claimed Tesla set a 7m23sec lap time this week, which would clearly beat Porsche’s effort. However, that time wasn’t recorded by Tesla or track officials so it remains unofficial. The company’s official Twitter account even claimed the car could manage a 7m05sec lap time “with some improvements” - but it’s unclear exactly what those improvements would entail.

There have been reports Tesla has booked private track time in October in order to make its run at the Taycan lap so we may get an official claim by next month.

Exactly what it all means remains to be seen, however. Musk originally said the Model S featured a seven-seater layout, which pointed to the company aiming for a ‘seven-seat’ record but the serious upgrades to the cars indicate they are gunning for a faster time overall.

If they do beat the Porsche with a heavily modified car it will be a hollow victory, with the production-ready Taycan claiming ultimate bragging rights. But whatever happens it seems these two brands are set for a bitter feud over the coming years.