- tesla released a video showing a model s running a 1:36.6 at weathertech raceway laguna seca, which would be a production-four-door lap record.
- the car used in the record attempt is not in production yet, although we suspect it will be offered for sale in the near future.
- manufacturers routinely make lap record claims, but there is no sanctioning organization to validate the credibility of their claims.
elon musk's track record of grand overstatements and broken promises has many observers casting doubt on his claim that a tesla model s set the four-door lap record at laguna seca. but musk's boast that the model s ran a 1:36.6 lap holds water as much as porsche's recent claim that its new electric taycan circled the nürburgring in 7:42. there's nothing "official" about either time.
official lap records can only be set during sanctioned events with an officiating body—in other words, during races and the practice and qualifying sessions that accompany them. there is no such thing as an official production-car lap record, because no organization or protocol exists to validate such attempts. tesla's model s record claim is hardly different than when companies such as porsche, lamborghini, and chevrolet tout nürburgring nordschleife lap times. and tesla's record is no more or less official than that of jaguar, which formerly held the fast time for a four-door production car at laguna seca with the xe sv project 8.
laguna seca marketing and communications director art michalik made that point clear in an email to car and driver. "at this time the only lap records that are official at weathertech raceway laguna seca are those that are set during a sanctioned, competitive event. there is no process to establish official production car records at weathertech raceway laguna seca, which would have to include verification that a vehicle has not been modified from 'stock,' which is outside our scope," michalik wrote.
keyboard scrutineers are also pointing out that the tesla model s used in the record attempt is not a production vehicle, as musk admits the car had three motors and the company only sells versions with two motors. in all likelihood, the car used in claiming the record is a model s plaid, a six-figure, high-performance version named after a star wars spoof that's middle-school funny. the laguna seca car is at least similar, if not identical, to the model s spotted testing at the nürburgring, and we're fairly certain that it will enter production in the near future. assuming that's the case, musk's sin is merely jumping the gun on making the announcement, but not necessarily conducting the record run.
we'll likely never know whether the record model s is representative of what customers will be able to buy, or if it was meaningfully modified. without independent verification of lap times and scrutiny of the vehicles used in these unofficial record attempts, we're left to take manufacturers at their word. reputable manufacturers agree that record-setting production vehicles should wear the same tires that are available to customers from the factory, but even that low standard is easily (and probably more often than we know) ignored. car and driver's annual lightning lap track test is an antidote to questionable record claims, providing third-party objectivity and allowing the track performance of more than 200 vehicles to be directly compared.
ideally, production-car records should be established with an unmodified car built on the same assembly line as the production vehicles and badged with a valid vin (vehicle identification number). the vehicle should make the same power and torque as production models and wear tires that are available from the factory. the suspension alignment should be reproducible on any production version of that model, and all of the original equipment such as insulation, seats, glass, and air conditioning should be intact. if there are safety improvements, such as a roll cage, they shouldn't offer a substantial performance advantage. given the escalating frequency and often suspect credibility of production-car record claims, it's about time someone wrote up a business plan for a neutral third-party sanctioning organization to track and validate the manufacturers' claims. or you could just copy and paste this story.