Lamborghini's latest supercar puts up plenty of impressive numbers—640 horsepower, zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds, a top speed of 202 mph. But when the Huracan Performante was officially unveiled to the world, one data claim trumped them all: A Nurburgring lap time of 6:52.01, snatching the lap record for production cars from the long-reigning Porsche 918 Spyder by a nearly five-second margin.
But almost immediately, there were doubters.
Lamborghini provided in-car video of the purported record lap. Not that long ago, this would have stood as incontrovertible evidence, the gold standard. But among supercar makers, racing experts and internet sleuths, some folks raised questions, pointing out perceived inaccuracies and hypothetical opportunities for number-fudging.
A Nurburgring record, like a lap of the famed race track itself, is a tricky thing. What seems like a straightforward way to establish a performance car's rank gets muddy and subjective the closer you look. Here's what led people to question Lamborghini's claims, and how the automaker answered the accusations with cold hard data that closed the case—at least for some experts.
Lamborghini uploaded the Huracan Performante's lap video on March 1st. The professionally-edited footage seems to offer everything a skeptic could ask for: Dual camera angles showing both the car's racing line and the driver's actions from inside the cockpit; a dashboard overlay indicating speed, RPM, and gear position; a GPS track map; and of course, a lap timer.
At the wheel is test driver Marco Mapelli. This isn't his first time starring in a blistering Lamborghini 'Ring lap video—in May 2015, the automaker published a video of Mapelli turning a 6:59.73 lap in an Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce. His 2015 performance was manic, a seven-minute frenzy with plenty of snap-action sawing at the steering wheel. See for yourself:
The Aventador lap time came astoundingly close to the all-time production car Nurburgring lap record—6:57.00, . The fact that the half-million-dollar Lamborghini ran a lap that came so close to Porsche's $850,000 hybrid UFO made its second-place time seem like a victory in itself.
Now compare Mapelli's turn in the Aventador with his lap in the Huracan Performante, recorded October 5th, 2016, and uploaded at the start of this month:
If you removed the clock from both videos and watched them back-to-back, you'd swear the older car was faster. In the Aventador, Mapelli is constantly sawing at the wheel, in a constant battle to find every last bit of grip the car can offer. In the new Huracan, he's nearly sedate.
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Pay attention to the speedometers. The 740-horsepower V12-powered Aventador of 2015 rockets to higher top speeds in nearly every straight-line sector than this year's 640-horsepower V10-powered Huracan.
And yet, at the end of the lap, the Huracan crosses the line in 6:52.01—faster than both the world-record Porsche and big brother Aventador by a daunting margin.
This is when the questions started coming.
The Red Flags
Any automaker's Nurburgring lap claim must be viewed skeptically. There's no rule book, no governing body monitoring production car 'Ring attempts. At the very least, any factory-backed production car that laps the circuit is assembled from the choicest components, tuned to be the ultimate specimen of the model. Legend has it many automakers take their preparations much further, cranking up engine output, fitting cheater tires, and otherwise exceeding consumer specifications. Some of this comes with a plausible justification: Many "production" cars show up at the Nurburgring with a full roll cage, a prudent safety measure that just happens to add beneficial chassis stiffness and necessitates a partially gutted interior.
The standard questions about car preparation certainly apply to the Huracan Performante. But it was Lamborghini's lap video that led certain experts to question this record attempt in particular.
"From a driver's perspective it was a good lap," Robb Holland told me in the days after Lamborghini published the Huracan Performante video. "It was clean, it was quick, there's no doubt the guy was on it."
Holland should know, having notched multiple class wins in VLN endurance races at the Nurburgring and spent most of the past several years essentially living at the famed track. "As far as whether I personally believe they set the lap record, I highly doubt it. To those of us who are based at the 'Ring full-time, and really have an understanding of the track ... there's some anomalies in [the video] that just don't make sense," he said.
Dale Lomas, Nurburgring expert and founder of , was one of the first to point out perceived inconsistencies in the Huracan lap video. In , two days after the Lamborghini video came out, Lomas compared the Huracan and Aventador lap videos. He found that, throughout the 1760-meter segment of track between the final gantry and the first bridge, the Huracan's indicated speed is significantly slower than the Aventador's. Despite this, the videos show the two cars covering the distance in nearly identical time: 21.9 seconds for the newer Huracan, 21.7 seconds for the more powerful Aventador, as indicated by the on-screen lap timers.
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Lomas concluded that, if the speeds indicated in both videos were accurate GPS measurements, the Huracan could not have covered the segment of track in the indicated time at the indicated speeds—indicating that the Huracan video had been sped up to show a faster lap time. (Lomas could not be reached by R&T for comment.)
Holland didn't outright accuse Lamborghini of video tampering, but he pointed out how any automaker could use this tactic. "The easy way to do things is you speed up the video three percent," he told me. "I can't look at it and say 'the hand movements are too quick,' it's literally imperceptible. But if you look at a seven minute lap, you speed it up three percent and you're now looking at going 12 seconds quicker."
Others agreed. Christian von Koenigsegg, founder of the Swedish supercar company that bears his name, voiced his concerns to R&T's Máté Petrany at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. "When I saw that video, there was something weird about it," he said. "So slow in the the straights, yet it looks like it's on rails in the corners, and there's no G-force meter. If you have that kind of cornering capabilities, why don't you show your G-force, like everybody else?"
"Is the lap time doable? I think so," Holland told me. "The issue we have isn't with the fact of whether it's capable or not. It's just that what they have posted as their evidence of the lap doesn't quite add up to what we know from the data that we have from thousands of laps at the Nurburgring."
I asked Holland what he would need to see to believe Lamborghini's lap time claims.
"The actual data from the car," he said, "so I can see what speed they were going in the corners, how quickly the car went down the straightaway, how quickly it accelerated."
It was exactly one week after the Huracan Performante Nurburgring video was published, and five days after my first conversation with Holland, that Lamborghini threw down the data. At the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, R&T's Máté Petrany met with Lamborghini lead engineer Maurizio Reggiani to ask about the Performante lap time.
Reggiani delivered, pulling out an iPad and showing off the data traces recorded by the telemetry equipment in the Huracan Performante during the 6:52.01 lap. The graph showed vehicle speed in km/h over time in seconds, with a second overlaid data line showing the car's elevation as a way of pinpointing its location on the track. Our pal , republished here with permission (Click the top right corner to expand the image).
Along with the data came an explanation. According to Reggiani, it's the Huracan Performante's active aerodynamic system (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, or ALA) that gives the greatest improvement in lap time. In its most aggressive setting, Lamborghini says the system creates an astounding 750 percent more downforce than the standard Huracan 610-4. More importantly, the spoilers snap into their lowest-drag setting when the car is aimed straight, removing the acceleration impediment that big aero can cause.
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The system does more. The Huracan Performante is the world's first vehicle to use active aero vectoring, apportioning downforce side-to-side in response to steering input. By adding more downforce to the inside wheels in a corner, ALA helps reduce steering angle, increasing the car's midcorner speed capabilities.
I spoke with Holland the day Lamborghini revealed the telemetry. "After seeing the actual data from the lap, I 100-percent believe that the lap is legitimate," he told me.
Why the sudden change of heart? "At the end of the day, you don't release data unless you're confident in the lap," Holland said. He explained that, given the data traces provided by Lamborghini, anyone could calculate the car's speed through known-length sectors of the track. If the automaker was fudging anything, publishing the data was a surefire way to get caught with no way of explaining it away. "By simply publishing the data, it makes me very confident that they did the lap," he said.
To Holland, the Huracan Performante's active aero system explains many of the inconsistencies he first sensed in the lap video. "People don't understand that the Nurburgring is an aero track," he said. "The car is very rarely in a straight line—you're always cornering."
Holland thinks the 640-horsepower Huracan Performante's aero advantage easily explains how it could beat the 740-horsepower Aventador or the 887-horse Porsche 918 Spyder around the track. "On the straightaways, yeah, they have a 10 or 15-mph advantage in top speed," he said. "But everywhere else, a car that has more downforce and more grip is going to have a higher average overall speed through the corners. If you're five mph quicker going into the midcorner, you're five mph quicker coming out, which means that's five mph less that you have to accelerate."
The Huracan's low-drag aero mode could also explain how it might transit a certain track section in the same amount of time as the more powerful Aventador, despite never reaching the Aventador's velocity. A 100-horsepower advantage might let the Aventador reach a higher top speed in a segment, but the Huracan's low-drag mode might allow it to accelerate much quicker than the fixed-aero Aventador. "If you can get to speed quicker than the other car, the maximum speed might not make a difference," Holland said.
As with any manufacturer's Nurburgring lap attempt, questions still remain about the specifications of the Huracan Performante that set the lap record. Christian von Koenigsegg points out the advantages of the Performante's tires—street-legal Pirelli P Zero Trofeo Rs, "designed by Pirelli engineers especially for the event." He was struck, he said, by how the car's indicated speed seemed slow on the straightaways, but very fast in the corners, with no tire noise.
"And then a few days later, Pirelli said, 'oh, we custom made kind-of-slick tires for it.' Well, that makes sense!" Koenigsegg told R&T. "I guess the only question for me is, is it okay to claim a production car record on special tires?"
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Holland isn't as concerned with the tires, which will be available to Huracan Performante buyers. "To be fair, even if it wasn't available as an option on that car, it's available to the general public," he said. "When you shave that tire down, it's almost like a slick. You're not gonna hear any of that noise." Shaving tires, like many of the other tuning tricks manufacturers use at the 'Ring, isn't technically changing the car beyond factory spec. In Holland's mind, it's par for the course.
There will still be doubters—among them Jim Glickenhaus. "I have great trouble with the video [Lamborghini] showed, with the telemetry that they showed, with the frame rate of their video, and I personally am very skeptical of that claimed time," .
Glickenhaus has a horse in this race—his SCG 003, a street-legal supercar designed to be driven to the Nurburgring and converted to 24-hour race specifications right there in the pits. Glickenhaus, along with Holland, Koenigsegg, and many others, is advocating for a new system of Nurburgring lap times, one where private owners bring their cars to the track, have the tires, fuel and other parameters verified as stock, and let the same driver set a lap time in each car that shows up, all under a third party's watchful eye.
But until that logistically-challenging event can take place, we're left with the task of trusting but verifying an automaker's Nurburgring lap claims. And in the case of the Huracan Performante, Lamborghini seems to have created a supercar that, thanks to an unprecedented aerodynamic system, can corner fast enough to turn a quicker lap than cars that run away from it on the straightaways.
It's a feat that many observers, amateur and expert alike, thought was impossible—until they saw the data.