Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk accepted the implicit challenge of the recently revealed 2020 Porsche Taycan by promising to send a Tesla Model S to the infamous Nürburgring, implying an attempt to beat Porsche’s claimed record lap time. Musk now claims the Model S has set a record at Laguna Seca—likely a distraction from the fact that Tesla can’t set a ‘Ring time yet.
Model S on Nürburgring next week
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 5, 2019
Ahead of the official reveal the Porsche Taycan last week—the German carmaker’s first-ever production electric car designed to be a performance sedan with consistent, repeatable track-lapping capability, even if its on-paper specs fall short of the enduring performance Model S—Porsche claimed that the Taycan Turbo S had set a record Nürburgring lap time of 7:42. Porsche claims it has the track record for the fastest “four door electric sports car.”
The Nürburgring is (debatably, we’d say) significant because it’s the go-to track for international automakers looking for valuable driving and tuning feedback on development prototypes, and its popularity among companies also makes it a great marketing opportunity for a good old fashioned dick measuring contest when somebody has a new performance car they want to brag about. You could argue ‘Ring records don’t really matter, and they kind of don’t; but for now it’s the target everyone likes to aim for, so it is what it is.
The problem for Tesla last week was that Musk sent out his tweet promising a Model S at the ‘Ring, but Tesla didn’t seem to go through the paperwork with ‘Ring officials to organize an exclusive time slot on the track which is required for any sort of timed record attempt, according to a German track official speaking to Road And Track:
A Nürburgring insider tells R&T that Tesla has a car leaving California today headed for the German track. When asked if Tesla could get exclusive track time, the insider said that was highly unlikely this late in the ‘Ring testing season—manufacturer track time is usually scheduled far in advance. “Tesla doesn’t have a presence there,” the source told us, “so I’m not sure if they actually know that.”
The next day, Tesla clarified that it would run the Tesla Model S during the “industry testing” sessions, which are often crowded with all sorts of assorted makes and models in various states of prototype and design phases. While these sessions are exclusive to the “industry,” namely automakers testing their cars, it means they all have to share the track with each other.
Tesla even got an offer from retired Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 champion and notable YouTube vlogger Nico Rosberg to do the driving, which would be a hoot if it actually happens:
Thanks for offering! Sure, that would be great.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2019
(Rosberg was spotted at the Frankfurt Motor Show as recently as this morning, suggesting he’s not the one driving the Model S at the ‘Ring just yet.)
Because of the crowd, no official timed attempts are allowed during industry sessions, partially because there will be a bunch of sheet metal in the way, and also because it’s just transparently reckless and dangerous to encourage at-the-limit driving in such conditions.
Earlier today, Elon Musk tweeted again that the Model S had made it to the Nürburgring, but it wouldn’t yet be attempting to set a record time to beat the Porsche:
But we probably won’t try for best lap time this week, as we need to review & tune Model S thoroughly for safety on Nürburgring, especially Flugplatz section
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 11, 2019
That’s fair enough. It’s common for automakers looking to set a record to mess around with the software and hardware on the car to specifically adapt to the ‘Ring’s particularly rigorous and sometimes dangerous conditions.
But today’s tweet also indicates that Musk did in fact intend to beat the Porsche record when he initially tweeted about it last week, despite not having organized the appropriate circumstances with the track itself yet.
Previous attempts at getting an (unofficial) ‘Ring time in a Model S resulted in a time of right around 10 minutes, through traffic on the track, and after the car suffered a period of reduced performance due to excessive battery heating, as we reported back in 2014.
In 2015, a Model S P85D allegedly ran a lap thorugh taffic in just under 9 minutes. Since then, the Model S has gotten some significant upgrades. I’m sure others have tried, but Tesla has never officially had a go at it as a company.
I suppose to make up for this minor “delay” in beating Porsche’s ‘Ring time, Tesla threw a Model S around Laguna Seca—a California track not at all similar to the extensive German Nürburgring—claiming the four-door electric performance sedan set a track record and promising more details later this week.
Model S just set record for fastest 4 door ever at Laguna Seca, video tmrw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 11, 2019
There is no official timed lap of the Porsche Taycan Turbo S around Laguna Seca yet, but it’s good to know the performance Model S is still fast, I suppose.
I’ll be waiting for that ‘Ring time, Elon. Unless the Laguna Seca record is an attempt to bring Porsche to Tesla’s home turf. We’ll see.