McLaren’s P1 had a lot to live up to, specifically the tag of being the best performance car on the planet, but the vehicle has moved a step closer to claiming this title after taming the Nurburgring in a jaw-dropping time of less than seven minutes

The ultimate test for any performance car is to navigate the legendary Nurburgring – specifically the North Loop – a race track so epic in its beauty and difficulty that Formula 1 legend Jackie Stewart dubbed it ‘the Green Hell’.

Any performance car enthusiast worth their salt has tackled the Nordschleife’s 20.8 km of twists, turns and breakneck straights, but few have ever gone below ten minutes.

Fewer still have broken the mythical seven-minute barrier, with the Porsche 918 being the only series production street-legal automobile to dip below that mark – until now.

According to McLaren, its new P1 – driven by chief Test Driver Chris Goodwin – managed to navigate the course’s 154 corners, 300 metres of elevation changes and 2g of cornering forces in less than seven minutes.

This equates to a face-melting average speed of at least 111 mph, though this may rise even higher when McLaren reveals the exact time posted by the P1; so far, it has only confirmed that the seven-minute barrier has been smashed.

Earlier this year, the Porsche 918 – fitted with the optional Weissach Package – set a Nurburgring lap time of 6:57 with Marc Lieb at the helm, which reduced the previous record by 14 seconds.

 Although Radical’s SR8 has gone faster at 6:55 – with the LM variant clocking even lower at 6:48 – this is generally discounted due to the vehicle stretching the boundaries of ‘road legal’ due to it being a lightweight, trackday special that has very few compromises to real-world situations such as weather.

The Porsche, however, is very much road legal, and arguably the McLaren P1’s biggest competitor, which makes bragging rights especially important.

The lack of an exact time suggest that the P1 may not have eclipsed the 918’s 6:57, but we know for a fact it has clocked under seven minutes, which is darn close, and an impressive feat nonetheless on the most daunting and challenging track known to man.

So impressive, in fact, that current McLaren F1 driver and 2009 World Champion Jenson Button offered an awestruck assessment of his employer’s new production vehicle.

“I’ve driven the McLaren P1 on a number of occasions – including up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it was sensational – and I think it’s a truly superb machine: unbelievably refined yet unbelievably quick.

“But for it to have recorded a sub-seven minute lap time around the Nurburgring is the icing on the cake: proof positive, backed by hard data, on the greatest racetrack of them all, that McLaren has created a genuine game-changer.”

McLaren set a number of targets during testing for the P1, including accelerating to 300 kph (186 mph) in less than 17 seconds onto a limited top speed of 350 kph (217 mph), but the biggest challenge was to achieve a sub-seven minute time around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, which would push every facet of the car to its limit.

The course is so dangerous that it was removed from the Formula 1 calendar in 1976 after nearly costing Niki Lauda his life – a fact that was not lost on Goodwin as he embarked on his attempt.

Before the lap, engineers put the car in ‘race mode’, which involved extending the active rear wing by 300mm, dropping the ride height by 50mm and stiffening the RaceActive Chassis Control suspension system by 300 per cent, though the standard road tyres were retained, meaning the car that completed the lap would have been just as legal on a UK high street.

Goodwin explained that the acceleration from the Aremberg right hander down the Fuchsrohre was “absolutely amazing”, with the car retaining its balance and poise throughout – something he has only previously experienced in a Formula 1 car

“This downhill snaking section of the track is taken flat, using DRS, shifting gear all the way down to the base of the valley, and the compression that follows applies the maximum vertical g-forces to the car. The forces really load the tyres, chassis and wing, but it is taken with only a slight lift of the throttle.”

By the time he reached the famed Dottinger Hohe straight, it had disappeared in no time, but the brutal acceleration from Galgenkopf was enhanced even further by pushing the DRS button, which took it up to limited top speed of 205 mph, where it cruised as the scenery flew by.

The verdict? As Goodwin explains: “Driving the McLaren P1 at this pace, on this circuit, is the most impressive driving experience I’ve ever had in any road or race McLaren, on any road or track in the world.”
Only time will tell whether the P1 has overtaken the Porsche 918 to be labelled the fastest production car in the world (at least in terms of taking on and defeating the Nurburgring), but one thing is for sure – the 375 people taking delivery of the first batch of McLaren’s latest supercar are in for a treat.

 

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