The fastest lap time set at the Nürburgring is 6:11:13, set by Stefan Bellof in 1983. It had 630HP and weighed 850kg.

However, we have lighter, faster cars now. Chassis and wheels are being made with carbon fiber, electronics are better and faster and smaller and lighter, 1200+ HP is possible in racing engines with perfectly tuned sequential fuel injection, and we have 30 additional years of technology, materials science and automobile engineering, and yet the 1983 record still stands and the Pagani Zonda R made headlines when it ran 6:47:5. Over 36 seconds slower, with 32 years of time lapse...

What is going on here? I understand that safety regulations and racing rules may prevent an in-race lap that beats the time, but of all laps, with all cars timed the record still stands.

Why hasn't this record been squashed, and why is it light-years ahead in lap times to everything else?

  • In short, ground-effects – Zaid Apr 15 '15 at 8:04
  • Groud Effects is certainly why they beat the other competitors in 1983, @Zaid. However, we have more advanced wind tunnels, better computer modeling and a much deeper understanding of Ground Effects now, so why can't any car come close (with equal or better ground effects in addition to carbon fiber, carbon fiber brakes [lighter and more braking force], better engines and fueling tech, etc...)? 2015 ground effects > 1983 ground effects. – Ehryk Apr 15 '15 at 8:09
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    Ehryk - I'm a bit puzzled as to why the discussion in comments has gone on as long as it has. Simply put, 1983 ground effects > 2015 ground effects. Because the focus is now on very different things. No-one wants to drive cars like them any more: dangerous, uncomfortable, slower etc. Modern supercars are for modern roads and tracks - they have higher top speeds, are much safer, and much more comfortable - but they will not cope with a Nurburgring as well. I'm sure someone could make a Nurburgring smasher, but no-one wants to. – Rory Alsop Apr 15 '15 at 9:35
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    Do you have a source for the ground effects claim? A team that self admittedly "barely understood" ground effects made ground effects better than are done today in all hypercars with computer modeling and tested in wind tunnels ad nauseum with a much richer understanding of what they even are? I think @Zaid is onto something with mm level clearances, but I'm looking for a reputable source. – Ehryk Apr 15 '15 at 9:44
  • This question is off topic based on the current guidelines in the help center. This would be better suited for chat – Move More Comments Link To Top Apr 15 '15 at 18:04

After all the hand waving and posturing, allow me to point out that the track was a whole 2 kilometers shorter when the 956 set that time. Also, those 2km were a technical part.

Aside from that, one should also take into account the fact that the Porsche 956 weighed only 800kg. That's lighter than a Fiat Uno Mia. No supercar today weighs less than a ton (more like 1200kg). The Pagani Zonda R has a similar peak horsepower and kind of has the same construction as the Porsche 956 (monocoque suspension, center engine, RWD), but it weighs 400kg more. The Zonda weighs half a 956 more, and any racing driver will tell you than even 10kg will make a huge difference.

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  • How is this an answer to the question? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 15 '15 at 13:21
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    @Paulster2 I think it does, am I missing something. The track the old record was set on was 2km shorter, you would expect a lower time wouldn't you? – Move More Comments Link To Top Apr 15 '15 at 14:25
  • Not quite. The Zonda R does it over 20,832 m so the premises of the original question remains: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Zaid Apr 15 '15 at 14:39
  • The Porsche 956 weighed 400kg less than the Zonda R and had a similar peak horsepower. If the zonda weighed 800kg, it would beat the record. – Captain Kenpachi Apr 15 '15 at 16:02
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    The radical went the extra 2km, plus its aerodynamics force it to have a lower top speed. – Captain Kenpachi Apr 16 '15 at 8:29

In 1983 there was a bypass where the GP track was being built giving a slightly faster circuit when the record was set but more importantly in 1984 Nürburgring grand prix circuit was opened so racing takes place there instead and for safety reasons racing cars, inc F1, etc do not run at full speed on the old track.

Road legal cars are edging ever closer to the record, they will beat it eventually. Don't forget that tyres play a major part in race performance. It is pretty amazing that they can even be so close.

It is not that cars are not faster because of ground effects. Various types of modern track cars could beat the record unmodified if they were allowed to make an attempt. This was shown in 2007 when Nick Heidfeld ran F1 demo laps which were only slower than the record because of slowing down for photo ops. If you take the time for parts of each of the 3 laps without slowing and stitch them together he would have beaten the record by almost a minute.


  • Do you have references for your claims about the modern track cars? Why would they beat the record? Would you mind fleshing this answer out a little? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 15 '15 at 13:07
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Zaid Apr 15 '15 at 14:40
  • @zaid that is still a list of modified production cars, not racing cars. – JamesRyan Apr 15 '15 at 14:47
  • What do you mean 'allowed to make an attempt'? Many cars are brought to the Nürburgring just for 'testing' purposes and their time is recorded, I suspect with some fee any vehicle can be arranged to make a timed lap. Have any cars that could potentially beat the 956's record been verifiably denied the ability to run a timed lap? Also, I'm curious what modern production/prototype cars (non-F1) should/would/could beat the record. – Ehryk Apr 15 '15 at 15:40
  • @Ehryk Production cars are brought because it is good marketing. Race cars are not brought because it is a very expensive and not especially suitable method of testing. Most teams test on proper racetracks. When a number of cars consistently beat a Porsche 956 and it's magical 'ground effects' everywhere else it is safe to say they would beat it on the ring too. – JamesRyan Apr 15 '15 at 16:05

In short, the Porsche 956 made use of underbody ground-effects which modern-day challengers do not utilize to the same extent.

The 'Ring is a very technical circuit. The lap times are not going to be governed solely on raw power; cornering speed is key. Ground effects gives so much grip that in the words of one '70s F1 driver, you can "paint the road" with it.

While the combined impact of modern-day technology and ground-effects is expected to be better than whatever was technically possible three decades ago, we need to remember that '70s-esque ground effects is outlawed by most, if not all, racing regulations because it is deemed too dangerous (and a little too effective).


In addition to what already has been said by @Zaid, it could be added that, there hasn't been any revolutionary technological breakthrough in engine (internal combustion, jet propulsion or rocket) industry for half a century, even more. All the updates are small, evolutionary, iterations mainly connected with close looped, micro-controlled, electrical circuits optimizing the existent designs. In addition to that drivers' life actually became relevant and protected by ridiculously great amount of safety regulations, further impeding performance.

  • It has to be said, this is always true for any technology. The things you perceive as "technological breakthrough" simply means that the incremental changes resulted in something important, but they still are just incremental changes. Development of computers was totally incremental, it's just that at some point, it became viable for mass production that started off the computer revolution proper. Looking back, we see something revolutionary, because we tend to ignore the incremental improvements that were the individual parts of the perceived "revolution". – Luaan Apr 15 '15 at 10:57

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