Kurt Verlin
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Why Are There Two Different Official Nürburgring Lap Times?

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Ferrari FXX K Evo at Nordschleife's Carousel
Photo: Alexandre Prevot via CC

For years, automakers have tested and developed their cars at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife race track for a variety of reasons, including showing off their lap times.

Sports car manufacturers are constantly trading blows by one-upping each other’s official Nürburgring lap times. Year after year, new production cars beat old records and become the golden standard for track performance.

Related: Chevy Camaro is one of the fastest production cars around the ‘Ring

But if you’ve paid attention to Nürburgring lap time announcements of late, you may have noticed that things have gotten a little more confusing. Instead of simply stating a lap time, press releases have begun announcing two different times. Here’s why.

New, official Nürburgring lap length

2018 Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE at the Nordschleife
Photo: Chevrolet

Since 1997, manufacturers have traditionally used a 12.8-mile configuration of the circuit to compare lap times. Technically, this is not a complete lap, as the starting line in this configuration is 0.14 miles ahead of the finish line.

That short piece of track bridges the gap where the Nordschleife branches into the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit and where the circuit rejoins the Nordschleife, which used to be blocked by a grandstand. But even after it became possible to do a full lap, manufacturers continued to use the 12.8-mile configuration for historical reasons.

However, Nürburgring officials recently stepped in with new mandates. Official benchmark lap times are now required to use the full 12.94-mile configuration. Official record attempts and lap times are also accompanied by a notary who must inspect and approve of the tires and vehicle. Yep, Nürburgring lap times are a serious business in the industry.

So why have manufacturers been releasing two different Nürburgring lap times? Quite simply, they are sharing both the official 12.94-mile time and the old 12.8-mile time so that readers can better compare the performance to cars that had only set a time over the old length before the 12.94-mile circuit became the official standard.

What is bridge to gantry?

Classic Corvette during Nordschleife Tourist session
Photo: Justin LaBerge via CC

Occasionally, a manufacturer may share a Nürburgring “bridge to gantry” time. This is the layout used during tourist driving sessions, which prevents driving over the full main straight because of the entrance and exit to the circuit. It’s only 11.9 miles long and should generally not be used as a measure of performance on the Nürburgring. However, it does have some uses in comparing less powerful cars, as the massive straight included in the full lap can disproportionally favor cars with high top speeds. If all you’re trying to do is show off your car’s fun-to-drive factor or cornering ability, the tourist layout has some value.

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So there you have it: Automakers have been releasing two different Nürburgring lap times because one is the official new time and the other is more relevant for comparison purposes, at least for the time being. We expect that over time, as more and more cars are tested using the new, official 12.94-mile configuration, automakers will stop including the 12.8-mile time.