Porsche recently proved that the Taycan Turbo S was more than capable of setting quick laps at the Nurburgring, and that got a lot of international media attention. That didn't sit well with ego maniac and cult of personality Elon Musk. As the head of California-based Tesla, he is constantly trying to use his social media soapbox to keep Tesla, and by extension himself, in the news cycle. Within a week of Porsche dropping video of the Taycan storming the German track, Musk took to twitter to let everyone know a Model S would be hitting the Nurburgring, too.
With another big hitter now officially on the world stage and setting unofficial EV records, Tesla has "developed" a car to maybe unofficially attempt to reclaim the cool fast EV throne. Tesla's efforts to build a track-oriented P100D have been in plain view and without the typical camouflaged wrap most Nurburgring prototypes are photographed wearing. This makes appreciating the subtle differences all the easier.
Notable features include bolt-on fender flares, massive BBS CI-R wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich rubber, a gurney flap, and tinted windows likely hiding a full cage. According to Hooniverse, Nico Rosberg—someone who's expressed a lot of interest in furthering EV technology—offered to pilot the heavyweight around the Nurburgring via Twitter. While Rosberg had motive and opportunity, he hasn't been seen testing the car. Instead, Tesla seems to have hired Nurburgring veteran Thomas Mutsch to do the heavy lifting.
give me a call if you need a decent driver to do the lap!
— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) September 7, 2019
There are several questions the informed observer might ask. At roughly 5,000 pounds, it's doubtful whether the Model S' standard 14-inch brakes can handle repeated hard laps around the 12.9-mile circuit. Keen eyes will notice the distinctly darker shade of rotors fitted to this particular car, suggesting Tesla's fitted their Nurburgring contender with a set of carbon-ceramics. The rotors looks larger, as do the calipers—the latter possibly a Brembo GT model.
The other main constraint on the Tesla is keeping the batteries cool. Historically, the Model S has only been good for a couple hard laps around shorter circuits before the going into limp mode. Though its longevity has been improved recently, there's a lot of mass and weight to manage. Peering at the front of the Nurburgring-spec car, we can see they've tried to improve this area by enlarging the main air inlet. Likely there is a larger heat exchanger behind that gaping maw.
If this Twitter thread is to be believed, Tesla hadn't been complying by the Nurburgring's policy for manufacturer hot lap attempts. As J.F. Musial mentions, "For industry pool hot lap attempts, staging is always in a certain area for all manufacturers. One car goes every 4-6 mins. Everyone abides by the same rules, even the biggest of competitors. It all happens at same time during select industry pool days." As of last week, Tesla hadn't been looking like they were going for a hot lap. They never booked manufacturer test time with the track, and the Nurburgring didn't even know the Model S was coming to the track.
It's also a lemon law buyback. pic.twitter.com/vA6MjmhcaI
— Brian Gluckman (@bgluckman) September 12, 2019
Interestingly, based on the license plates on the car seen testing in Germany, it is a 2017 Model S which has been purchased back from the original buyer by Tesla under lemon law. The company then turned the car into a development test mule with the intent of going faster. As of a few days ago, Elon Musk hinted that this car was testing the new "Plaid" powertrain, which will probably be a three-motor system in development for Model S, X, and Roadster for 2020. We'll have to wait a while until we see a production-series Plaid model, let alone an official record attempt. This might be lighter and more powerful than the Taycan, but Porsche has a lot of experience testing at the Nordschleife, so they won't be so easily defeated.
According to German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport, an unidentified witness has been quoted as saying the new modified Tesla has already "crushed" Porsche's Taycan record time set last month. The magazine's official Nurburgring "observer" reportedly recorded the non-standard Tesla Model S lapping at 7 minutes and 23 seconds.
“But what the new drive can do he has already shown on some very fast laps. Our observer reports a hand-stopped lap time of 7:23 minutes – as I said: hand-stopped with corresponding inaccuracies. But that would be about 20 seconds faster than that Porsche Taycan. The weather conditions on Monday (16.9.) were rather cool with 18 degrees and heavy cloud cover.”
Is it possible that the new Tesla has already upped the ante at the Nurburgring? Perhaps so. Will Porsche start working on a Taycan GT3 to combat this track Tesla? God, I hope so.