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McLaren P1 returns to snatch Nurburgring lap record (2013)

By Ollie Kew

Spy shots

17 October 2013 12:20

McLaren is back at the Nurburgring with the 903bhp P1 hybrid supercar, attempting to set the fastest lap time ever achieved by a production road car. Our spy photographer watched pre-production ‘XP2R’ pounding around the ‘Ring yesterday – and tells us it’s the fastest car he’s ever seen scoot past his lens on the famous German circuit.

In our pictures, the P1 is clearly in its maximum-attack ‘Race’ Mode: the rear wing is raised to its maximum height, the suspension is dropped 50mm to hug the road, and spring rates are 3.5-times stiffer for racecar-esque handling.

Surely McLaren’s track-biased P1 will walk to a new Nurburgring record?

You’d think so, what with its 727bhp twin-turbo V8, 176bhp electric motor, all-carbon construction, and ability to generate 600kg of downforce. Compared to the current record holder, the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren’s contender is lighter (by 285kg), more powerful (by 28bhp) and has that aerodynamic trump card. And yet, McLaren still isn’t top of the tree…

What’s McLaren saying about the P1’s latest exploits?

The official party line is that XP2R is back at the ‘Green Hell’ for final development and testing tweaks, despite the first customer-ready P1s having already rolled off the McLaren Production Centre production line. A McLaren spokesman told CAR: ‘the guys are there for final damper tuning and calibration – our engineers and technicians are never happy, despite what they’ve achieved’. Any updates will be retro-fitted to existing P1s, like the 12C supercar’s power and noise upgrades.

As for the lap record, McLaren’s man said ‘As Ron [Dennis] announced in Geneva, the car will go under seven minutes [at the Nurburgring] and that’s still the target for the company’.

How fast has the McLaren P1 actually been around the ‘Ring?

No-one outside of McLaren knows yet, but it’s likely the £866,000 P1 has still yet to crack the Porsche 918’s 6min 57sec lap time. The internet rumourmill went into meltdown earlier in 2013, when an official McLaren presentation slide showed a timing board displaying ‘6min 33.26sec’, next to a track map of the Nurburgring.

McLaren responded to online reports the P1 had recorded this blistering time by confirming the image had been created by the team working on the P1 as ‘design inspiration’, and that the brand’s target was ‘only’ to duck under the seven-minute barrier.

When the P1 returned to the Nurburgring last month, there was once again much speculation that McLaren was about to light up the timing screens with a lap time to embarrass a racing car. And yet, unofficial timings suggested the car had been unable to record a faster time than 7min 4sec.

Is McLaren in with a better chance of breaking 6min 57sec this time?

According to our man on the ground, yes. He reports McLaren has brought along a full pit support crew, along with personnel from Pirelli. The Italian tyre brand has developed a unique design of tyre for the McLaren P1, capable of handling high on-track temperatures, the McLaren’s hefty downforce, and but still able to meet road-legal legislation.

Today, CAR’s source reports the Nurburgring is in the eye of a rainstorm, with no chance of hot laps just yet.

Who’s driving the McLaren P1 on its ‘Ring record crusade?

At the wheel for the McLaren P1’s make-or-break run is chief test driver Chris Goodwin, who’s tested F1 cars for the McLaren-Mercedes F1 team, and catapulted CAR’s very own Mark Walton up the Goodwood hillclimb in the P1 at the 2013 Festival of Speed. He’s also the brave soul hanging on tight alongside Jay Leno in this video.

>> How fast do you think the McLaren P1 will eventually lap the Nurburgring? Give us your estimation in the comments below