New GT-R record shines light on messy Nürburgring business

Nissan GT-R - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

tmsbannerMeanwhile, it’s all over the Internet that the new Nissan GT-R Nismo rounded the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring in a scant 7 minutes 8 seconds, leaving machines like the Dodge Viper ACR, the Lexus LFA, sundry Porsches, Maseratis, and the odd Camaro in the dust. The time was attacked on September 30, and it is amazing that Nissan could keep the matter under wraps until the story could be deployed for highest PR efficiency the night before the Tokyo Motor Show during a party at Nissan’s Yokohama HQ.

Actually, it wasn’t. The resident Ring paparazzi at got a whiff of the story a month a go. The guys operate the Ring Taxi, and it is impossible to keep a secret from them, especially one that is loud and that comes with “a compliment of safety marshalls and timing beacons in the industry/sport-auto positions.”

Not bashful at all, Nissan calls the GT-R Nismo the “World’s fastest volume production car around the ‘Green Hell’.”  This is interesting for two reasons.

Automakers love the Nürburgring as part of their marketing mix. At the same time, they usually deny the existence of any kind of a race, keeping up a flimsy cover of alleged performance testing, never mind that that testing can be done better, cheaper, and safer at their proving grounds. They usually just publish a time, usually don’t mention any ranking, and let Wikipedia sort out the rest.  “They are a bit disingenuous,” Nissan’s Marketing Chief Simon Sproule told me today at the Tokyo Motor Show. “Of course it’s a race. And we won.”

“World’s fastest volume production car” brings needed attention to a messy aspect. The only consistent list of Ring times is kept on Wikipedia. The category of “production, street legal vehicles” has been monopolized for years by the Radical SR8, a purpose-built racing machine that takes 45 minutes and a laptop to start up, and that needs its engine to be rebuilt after a few hours of use. Its manufacturers basically put lights on a racer,  registered it for street use, and called it a  “production, street legal vehicle.”  Also in front of the GT-R Nismo is the Porsche 918 Spyder, never mind that this car wasn’t even in production  when the run was performed. “The cars before us aren’t real production cars,” Sproule said. “They are limited series at best.”