These days, both race cars and street cars are faster than ever. The laps around Le Mans today are now almost as fast as they were before the chicanes were installed on the Mulsanne straight back in 1989. Strangely, though, despite the constant quest by manufacturers to be faster than anyone else on the Nurburgring, the ultimate lap record set at the Nurburgring’s "Nordschleife" track (the famous "North Loop") by the Porsche 956 at the 1983 Nurburgrning 1000km has been standing ever since. How can that be?
A couple of factors lead to this record. First, the famous Nordschleife track was shortened from 22.8 kilometers to 20.8 km in 1983 due to construction of additional track areas, placing that year’s Nurburgring 1000km on a shorter track than in previous years. That accounts for a faster run than in previous years. However, that still doesn’t quite explain things, because cars have been racing on this shortened Nordschleife ever since.
This brings us to the second reason why the record has stood for so long: After 1983, virtually all major race moved away from the Nordschleife, taking place instead on another route — either the new Nurburgring combined circuit (25.9km; the 24 Hours of Nurburgring races here) or, in the case of the Nurburgring 1000km (later renamed 6 Hours of Nurburgring), on a much smaller track, the Grand-Prix Strecke, which is also used for the Nurburgring Formula 1 Grand Prix.
In simpler terms, here goes: The 1983 race was a perfect storm; a shortened Nordschleife track compared to earlier races, and the last time LeMans prototype cars would ever run on the Nordschleife, as they later moved to a smaller track ("Grand-Prix Strecke") for safety reasons. These days, major races at Nurburgring take place on two other tracks — the smaller GP Strecke course (now 5.1 km), or the full Nurburgring (25.9 km). The Nordschleife isn’t used for major races anymore.
But that still doesn’t quite answer our question (Why is the record still standing?) because the Nordschleife remains in heavy use today — just not for major car racing. If you were to bring your private car to the Nurburgring for a few laps today, for instance, you’d be driving on the Nordschleife.
And, as you may have guessed, there’s a little more to it. Namely, the Porsche 956 is unbelievably fast. Incredibly fast, even compared to what came before it. It was powered by a 620-horsepower twin-turbo flat six that only had to push around 800 kg of weight — and the 956 made use of cutting edge Venturi tunnels on the underside of the car to create insane downforce on the track like nothing else before.
These two factors allowed Porsche factory driver Stefan Bellof to set an incredible record of 6:11.13 during qualifying for the race. By comparison, the fastest road car to ever go around the Ring is the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, and it only managed to a measly 6:52.01. The Porsche 918 could only set a 6:57.00. Thirty years later!
Sadly, Stefam Bellof died two years after setting this record, at the 1000 Km of Spa after colliding with Jacky Ickx’s newer (and safer) Porsche 962. In fact, the 956 had a fairly short career, in part due to the safety issues — and it was largely overshadowed by the 962’s longer and more prolific racing history. Still though, it’s an incredible record, and it’ll likely be a very long time until it’s broken. Find a Porsche for sale
Photo credit: Brian Snelson