There’s nothing official about the Laguna Seca lap time, but that could change in the future

Tesla’s back making claims again, only this time, the California-based electric car maker is planting its flag at Laguna Seca after claiming the four-door lap record around the race track with a time of 1:36.6. While the lap time is impressive, it doesn’t hold much weight in the eyes of the public, largely because it wasn’t set during a sanctioned event and in the presence of an officiating body that would validate the lap time.

That said, Tesla’s decision to go to Laguna Seca to set a lap time, not to mention sightings of a different Model S at the Nurburgring, has people asking if these sightings are precursors to real sanctioned time laps in the future. Knowing Elon Musk, don’t discount that from actually happening.

Tesla’s the master at leaving bread crumbs for us to fight over, isn’t it? I take that those guys are smart enough to know that an unsanctioned lap time around Laguna Seca has as much weight as, say, Porsche’s recent claim that the all-electric Taycan lapped the Nurburgring in 7:42, the fastest recorded time for a production electric vehicle. It’s no different, too, from all the lap times you see at the Nurburgring from automakers touting their latest performance cars. None of these “records” are counted as official because there is no entity or organization that validates these attempts. That’s why you can call B.S. on an automaker who claims to own production-car lap records. There’s no such thing.

Laguna Seca marketing and communications director Art Michalik said as much to Car and Driver. According to Michalik, the only lap records that are deemed official at Laguna Seca are “those that are set during a sanctioned, competitive event.”

Here's That Video of the Tesla Model S Tearing Up Laguna Seca - Is Another Record Attempt Coming? Exterior Spyshots
- image 861638

But like every automaker who partakes in these activities, Tesla’s decision to lap a Model S around Laguna Seca has as much to do with setting a “lap record” as it is telling everyone about it when it happens, and, more importantly, when it beats the existing “record” that another car set in the past. In this case, the 1:36.6 lap time set by the Model S is a second faster than the lap time of the “previous” record-holder, the Jaguar XE SV Project 8.

It’s an achievement, for sure, but in true Tesla fashion, the automaker found a way to skirt around the perceived production car condition by using a version of the Model S that isn’t technically a production model, at least not yet.

The Tesla Model S Plaid is a high-performance version of the electric car that uses three electric motors instead of the two electric motors that are typically used in all other versions of the Model S. Specific details about the Model S Plaid have yet to be announced, but Musk indicated that when it hits production, “it would cost more than our current offerings, but less than competitors.” Must be a dig at the Porsche Taycan Turbo.

In any event, the fact that Tesla broke the Laguna Seca production car lap record with a version of the Model S that isn’t out in the market has cast doubt on the veracity of the record, at least for everyone who considers the legitimacy of these timed laps.

Here's That Video of the Tesla Model S Tearing Up Laguna Seca - Is Another Record Attempt Coming? Exterior Spyshots
- image 861624

Regardless, Tesla’s not one to back down from puffing its own chest. Heck, it could do it again soon now that a modified Model S — could that be the Model S Plaid? — has been spotted partaking in test runs around the Nurburgring earlier this week. The Model S in question featured wider fender flares, a lip spoiler, lightweight wheels, and performance tires. We can’t tell how many electric motors it’s carrying from the photos, but unless this is another version that Tesla hasn’t told us about, all signs point to this one being the high-performance Plaid version.

So, what’s it doing in the Nurburgring? Apparently, rumors are ripe that Tesla could make a record attempt at the ‘Ring as early as next week. Specifically, a 30-minute time slot opened at the track for September 21. It’s unclear if the slot was reserved by Tesla, but the pieces do add up for a surprise run at the ‘Ring.

Besides, a 30-minute time slot is more than enough for Tesla to attempt to set a new record. Is the Porsche Taycan’s 7:42 lap around the Nurburgring in trouble?

Considering that the Taycan only set that record a few weeks ago, Tesla could snatch it away before Porsche can even bask in the afterglow of owning a Nurburgring production car lap record. Then again, if Tesla attempts that record with a Model S Plaid, all the questions surrounding its “production car” status will once again be thrust into the conversation.

Here's That Video of the Tesla Model S Tearing Up Laguna Seca - Is Another Record Attempt Coming? Exterior Spyshots
- image 861626

It’s incredible, isn’t it? It’s incredible how a lot of these automakers take these lap times seriously, knowing full well that the legitimacy of these lap times can be thrown into doubt just as easily as a seven-minute lap time around the Nordschleife. Then again, there’s no price for pride and vanity, and for what those are worth, nobody’s as proud and as vain as Tesla when it comes to putting its best foot forward.

Fastest Sedans Around Nurbugring
Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR (non-street legal) 6:57.5
Jaguar XE SV Project 8 7:21.23
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 7:32
Porsche Panamera Turbo 7:38
Honda Civic Type R 7:43
Volvo S60 Polestar 7:51
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S 7:55
BMW M5 7:55
Subaru WRX STI 7:55
Cadillac CTS-V 7:59

Further Reading

2017 Tesla Model S Exterior
- image 672438

Read our full review on the 2019 Tesla Model S.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert -
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: